KOKOMO, Ind. — Learn about the first spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet at a free open house hosted by the Indiana University Kokomo Observatory on Sunday, April 12.
The NASA spacecraft Dawn entered orbit of the dwarf planet Ceres in early March, and Patrick Motl, associate professor of physics, will begin the open house with discussion of the achievement at 8 p.m.
“Images of Ceres from Dawn have shown intriguing and unexpected bright spots on its surface that have attracted considerable attention,” Motl said.
After the presentation, stargazers can look through the Observatory’s two telescopes to see Jupiter and Venus in the sky at sunset, with Saturn rising later in the evening. Star clusters from winter constellations are still visible in the early evening, but spring galaxies in Leo, Virgo, and Coma Berenieces will take a prominent place in the southern skies as darkness falls.
The Observatory’s telescopes are a six-inch Takahashi refracting telescope and a 16-inch Meade reflecting telescope mounted together. The Takahashi provides exceptionally sharp images of planets, while the Meade allows viewers to see fainter objects in the sky, due to its larger light collecting area.
Observation will continue until 10 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.
The Dawn spacecraft traveled 3.1 billion miles and seven and a half years to reach orbit around Ceres, which, with the asteroid Vesta, are the two most massive residents of our solar system’s main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
It explored Vesta from 2011 to 2012, delivering new insights and thousands of images.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.