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Posts under tag: planets

May 29, 2017

Visiting PMO in June (2017)

PMO is now open for Friday and Saturday night tours, and June can be a good opportunity to visit. Keep in mind, however, that sunsets are late (8:45 p.m. or so), and you should plan on staying until at least 11:00 p.m. (weather permitting) to have a good experience including a couple of dark sky objects such as star clusters. Tours will normally not end until midnight this time of year, if the sky remains clear.

Do arrive early (by about sunset), and check in at the greeting center next to the parking lot. Water bottles may be available to purchase at the greeting center, however, we strongly advise bringing your own food and water.

Twilight viewing beginning about 9:00 p.m. will focus on the planet Jupiter, well-placed in the south about halfway up in the sky. Saturn will be high enough to see later, about the time skies are completely dark. Saturn will be low in the SE sky, near the zodiac constellation of Sagittarius.

Moon viewing information: June 2-3 – moon bright (although not yet full) and sets late; June 9-10 – full bright moon; June 16-17 – moon approaching last quarter, doesn’t rise during tours; June 23-24 – new moon, excellent “deep sky” viewing after 11 p.m., weather permitting.

Important reminder: PMO is NOT in the path of totality for the August 21 total solar eclipse, and will NOT be open that day or the weekend of August 18-20. For a possible eclipse viewing site, see https://www.oregonsolarfest.com/. The eclipse at PMO will be 98.9% partial in terms of “obscuration,” or fraction of the Sun’s area covered. That is still about 1,000 times too bright to observe the Sun’s faint outer atmosphere, or corona.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at PMO!

May 12, 2017

PMO Opens May 26-27 of Memorial Day weekend for public tours

It’s that time of year – public night sky tours at PMO begin Friday and Saturday, May 26-27, of Memorial Day weekend! Please note that there are no tours on Sunday and/or Monday, even when there is a Monday holiday. Always check the weather forecast and the PMO weather page before visiting; you should expect and prepare for nighttime temperatures in the 40s, even if it’s nice in town. Tours begin at about 9:00 p.m. and may last until midnight, although it’s not unusual for viewing to end earlier depending on conditions, so please arrive early, and check in at the greeting center next to the parking lot.

Sunset is about 8:40 p.m. Twilight viewing beginning about 9:00 p.m. will focus on the planet Jupiter, well-placed in the south about halfway up in the sky, not far from the bright star Spica. Saturn will not be visible until about 11:00 p.m., and even then will be very low in the SE sky, near the zodiac constellation of Sagittarius. (Viewing of Saturn will improve as the summer progresses.) The Moon will not be visible [correction – there was a thin crescent visible on Saturday May 27, but next weekend will be better]. Please wait one more week (until the first weekend in June) if you want a view of the Moon. However, the lack of moonlight the first public weekend will allow excellent viewing of certain star clusters, nebulae, galaxies and even a comet or two if sky conditions permit.

The PMO campground is a primitive Forest Service campground, and does not accept reservations. Although there’s plenty of space for smaller vehicles and tents, please do arrive early if you plan to camp.

We’re looking forward to another great season, and to seeing you at PMO!

August 2, 2016

Visiting PMO in August (2016)

Sunsets at PMO rapidly become earlier in August – from about 8:30 p.m. at the outset to about 7:45 p.m. at the end. This means you won’t have to wait as long to see the Milky Way and some great “deep sky” objects, but do plan on arriving at or shortly after sunset if you want to observe the planets (Jupiter, Mars and Saturn – with Jupiter too low for the 24-inch telescope by about mid-month, but Venus will join Jupiter very low in the western sky the final weekend of August). Neptune (and possibly Uranus) are the only planets we’ll observe after dark – near the end of most tours, a little before midnight.

The annual Perseid Meteor shower peaks August 11th,Thursday evening into the early morning hours of Friday August 12, best from about midnight to 4 a.m. Although the telescopes won’t be open Thursday night, you’re welcome to visit, camp if desired, look up at the sky and enjoy the meteor show. The moon sets that night about 1 a.m. We will be open the evening of Friday August 12th.

Moon information: Aug 5-6 – thin crescent moon (just below Jupiter on 8/5); Aug 12-13 – bright moon interferes with viewing, but will be visible during tours; Aug 19-20 – moon still bright (shortly after full moon) and rises by 9:30 p.m., limiting dark sky viewing; Aug 26-27 – waning moon doesn’t rise until after 1:30 a.m., won’t interfere with normal public viewing.

June 29, 2016

Visiting PMO in July (2016)

Reminder – No extra tours for the July 4 holiday weekend (Friday/Saturday only).

PMO remains open for Friday and Saturday night tours, and with the start of July, we’re entering the “prime” of the tour season. Sunsets remain late (8:30 to 8:45 p.m. or so), so you should plan on staying until at least 11:00 p.m. (weather permitting) to have a good observing experience including “deep sky” objects such as star clusters, nebulae and galaxies. Tours will not end until midnight this time of year, if the sky remains clear (with the possible exception of full moon weekend). Please arrive early (by about sunset), and check in at the greeting center next to the parking lot.

The planet Jupiter continues to be visible in July, but will sink lower into the west in the evening twilight. Mars and Saturn also remain visible, roughly due south near the zodiac constellation of Scorpius at 10 p.m. Saturn has the most favorable ring angle in many years, and is very impressive on a good night.

Moon viewing information: July 1-2 – new moon (not visible, excellent for deep sky observing); July 8-9 – crescent moon nearing first quarter, good opportunity to see during tours; July 15-16 – moon nearing full, resulting in bright sky; July 22-23 – moon waning but still bright and rises before 11 p.m., interfering with deep sky viewing; July 29-30 – moon doesn’t rise until late at night.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at PMO!

June 2, 2016

Visiting PMO in June (2016)

PMO is now open for Friday and Saturday night tours, and June can be a good opportunity to visit. Keep in mind, however, that sunsets are late (8:45 p.m. or so), and you should plan on staying until at least 11:00 p.m. (weather permitting) to have a good experience including a couple of dark sky objects (also known as deep sky objects) such as star clusters. Tours will normally not end until midnight this time of year, if the sky remains clear. Do arrive early (by about sunset), and check in at the greeting center next to the parking lot.

Twilight viewing beginning about 9:00 p.m. will focus on the planet Jupiter, well-placed in the SW about halfway up in the sky. Mars and Saturn will be high enough to see a little later, but before skies are completely dark. They will be low in the SE sky, near the zodiac constellation of Scorpius.

Moon viewing information: June 3-4 – new moon (not visible); June 10-11 – moon nearing first quarter, good opportunity to see during tours; June 17-18 – moon almost full (and bright); June 24-25 – moon approaching last quarter, doesn’t rise during tours.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at PMO!

May 5, 2016

Transit of Mercury

For more information, see the Sky & Telescope article at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/get-ready-for-may-9th-transit-of-mercury-041320162/.

Transit of Mercury, May 9, 2016 at 8:47 a.m. PDT.

Transit of Mercury, May 9, 2016 at 8:47 a.m. PDT.

Photo of transit added Monday evening. This photo was taken with the 5-inch refractor attached as a finder on PMO’s 24-inch telescope. Note Mercury to left of center and a sunspot group to right of center.

On Monday morning, May 9, from sunrise until about 11:40 a.m., the planet Mercury will appear as a small black dot moving across the face of the Sun, an event known as a “transit.” In our solar system, only Mercury and Venus can transit the Sun as viewed from Earth. Some of you recall the June 2012 transit of Venus, which won’t be repeated for about a century. After Monday’s event, Mercury will transit again on November 11, 2019, and then not again until May 7, 2049 as seen from the U.S.

Solar viewing is dangerous and can result in permanent eye damage. Please DO NOT attempt to view this Monday’s event directly unless you have the proper equipment and know how to use it safely. “Eclipse shades” sold for solar eclipse viewing are not safe when used with binoculars or telescopes of any kind, such as would be required to see Mercury because of its small size compared to the Sun. (Save the shades for the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse instead.) Indirect viewing is possible, using a small scope (such as a spotting scope) to project the Sun’s image onto a sheet of paper. If you attempt this method, use the Sun’s shadow for alignment and NEVER look into the scope when pointed anywhere near the Sun. There is more information in the above-referenced article.

Images and video of the Mercury transit will be available on several Internet sites. At PMO, weather permitting, there will be a couple of properly-filtered telescopes setup to view the transit. Please keep in mind that PMO does not offer public night sky tours until Memorial Day weekend, Friday-Saturday May 27-28, so you should not expect a tour on Sunday or Monday evening before or after the transit, even though the campground is open.

July 17, 2015

Arrive early to see Moon and planets

The planets Venus and Jupiter are sinking lower into the evening twilight after sunset. To see them, along with a very thin crescent Moon on Saturday July 18, please be ready at the PMO 24-inch telescope building by sunset, about 8:40 p.m. Saturn will be visible longer, and we expect to be showing it from about 9:00 to 9:45 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday.



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