The Westmont Observatory will reopen Friday for the first time in two years.
The reopening is set for 7 p.m., and the Montecito college’s observatory will be open for several hours. Masks will be required.
The observatory was closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now the Montecito college will host a free public viewing on the third Friday of every month. People can gaze at the stars through the college’s powerful Keck telescope, and members of the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit will bring their telescopes to share with the public.
This Friday, “since the moon will be just past full, we will focus our attention on some bright open clusters in the northwestern sky and some open clusters near zenith,” said Thomas Whittemore, emeritus instructor of physics and SBAU member.
Possibilities include the Messier trio of clusters M36, M37 and M38 in Auriga, the charioteer, which are more than 4,000 light-years away.
The viewing will also include M35 in Gemini, the twins. “This is a particular favorite of mine. The contrasting colors in the stars make for some dazzling eye candy,” said Mr. Whittemore.
A new item on the celestial menu is the open cluster NGC1342, or “the little scorpion.”
“It’s particularly fun for me to ask the viewer what pattern they see in the collection of stars and let their imaginations enhance the public viewing,” said Mr. Whittemore.
Free parking is available near the Westmont Observatory, which is between the baseball field and track and field/soccer complex.
In case of bad weather, call the Telescope Viewing Hotline at 805-565-6272 to see if the viewing has been canceled.