• August 22, 2014

Free public star party Saturday

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Posted: Friday, February 21, 2014 4:30 am

The Central Texas Astronomical Society will host a free public star party from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Overlook Park, 3740 Farm-to-Market 1670 in Belton.

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.

Doug Peters, CTAS star parties coordinator, said the brightest stars visible in the Orion constellation will be easy to spot because of its distinctive hourglass shape. Orion’s Belt is made up of three evenly spaced and perfectly aligned stars.

He said the smudge in the Sword of Orion is actually the Great Orion Nebula, a bright emission nebula and massive star-forming region visible to the naked eye on a dark night.

The red giant star Betelgeuse, the right shoulder of Orion, is nearing the end of its life, he said. Betelgeuse contains 10 times the mass of the sun, but is 1,000 times larger and 120,000 times more luminous.

“Gas giant Jupiter, composed primarily of hydrogen and helium, spends the month in the constellation Gemini,” he said. “Jupiter’s four brightest moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, are called Galilean moons because they were first discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610, when he first turned his telescope to the heavens.”

Stargazers can catch a glimpse of the planet right after sunset. The distinctive blue-green color of Uranus is due to the methane in its atmosphere.

“We will look at these and many other celestial objects this month,” he said.

If the event is canceled due to weather, a notice will be posted on www.centexastronomy.org by 5 p.m. For more information, email Peters at starparties@centexastronomy.org.

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