BELTON — The king of planets reigns supreme in January, when Jupiter makes its best appearance of the year and is up all night, astronomers say.
The royal visit should make for an extra special star-watching party from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Overlook Park, located at 3740 Farm-to-Market 1670 in Belton.
The party is hosted by the Central Texas Astronomical Society (CTAS).
“This is an excellent opportunity for the entire family to come out and enjoy an evening under the stars,” said Doug Peters, CTAS public star parties coordinator.
CTAS members will provide telescopes to view the visible planets and a selection of star clusters, nebulas and galaxies. Guests are welcome to bring their own telescopes or binoculars, small flashlights and lawn chairs. Star-gazers are advised to dress warmly.
Peters said the rapid rotation of Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, makes it possible to see it all in a single night.
“Jupiter is composed mostly of hydrogen and helium, the outer atmosphere separated into light and dark bands parallel to the equator,” he said. “Ganymede, the largest of Jupiter’s 67 moons, is actually larger than the planet Mercury.”
Aldebaran, a giant red star 66 light years distant, is the brightest object in the constellation Taurus, Peters said.
“You can locate Aldebaran in the night sky by following a line through the three bright stars of Orion’s belt to the right and to the nearest bright star.”
Every month, CTAS offers public stargazing events in Belton, Waco and Hubbard and a public open house at the Meyer Observatory near Clifton. The public programs are both entertaining and educational, Peters said.
If the star party is cancelled because of cloudy skies or rain Saturday, a cancellation notice will be posted by 5 p.m. today at www.centexastronomy.org. Register online for the party and receive monthly notices for future events.