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Jupiter to be at its peak at free Observatory open house

February 2, 2015
KOKOMO, Ind. —The solar system’s largest planet will be at its peak for the Indiana University Kokomo Observatory’s free open house this Sunday, February 8.

As the evening sky darkens, Jupiter will climb across the eastern horizon and be visible all night as it crosses the southern sky. The giant planet reaches opposition two days earlier, on February 6, and will be at its peak all month, displaying intricate cloud features and its four Galilean moons. Opposition is when the earth passes between Jupiter and the sun, placing Jupiter opposite the sun in our sky.

Patrick Motl, associate professor of physics, will begin the open house at 7 p.m., presenting highlights from the recent 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. He will talk about the Gaia mission to chart a three-dimensional map of our solar system, recent developments in the van Allen radiation belts, and results from the Planck space mission.

After the presentation, stargazers may look through the Observatory’s two telescopes. The six-inch Takahashi refracting telescope provides exceptionally sharp images of planets, while the 16-inch Meade reflecting telescope allows viewers to see fainter objects in the sky, due to its larger light collecting area.

“The winter hexagon will be high in the sky at sunset, and we will have Mars and Venus setting shortly after the sun as Jupiter rises,” Motl said.

Observation will continue until 9 p.m., weather permitting. The open house is free and open to the public in the Observatory, 105 E. Rebecca Lane. Free parking is available on campus.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 02/02/2015