On Friday, June 18, Westmont Observatory held a free, public telescope viewing, a monthly event hosted by the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit (SBAU). About 100 to 150 people dropped by to view Westmont’s new, research-grade telescope.
The Keck telescope — not to be confused with the one in Hawaii — uses segmented primary mirrors and a 24-inch reflector, and is thought to be one of the most powerful telescopes on the Central Coast. It was funded in large part by the W.M. Keck Foundation and brought to campus in April. Since then, Westmont students and faculty have used the telescope to track meteorite trajectories and research variable stars. And on Friday, members of the SBAU directed its gaze to the moon and Saturn.
A line of people filtered through the observatory, while a telescope operator navigated from coordinate to coordinate. Outside, several SBAU members set up shop with their personal telescopes. The evening began after sunset and lasted for several hours.
For those looking to have an educational experience, SBAU members were happy to orate. “SBAU’s charter is education,” says Chuck McPartlin, the club’s Outreach Coordinator, who, in the middle of a small crowd, delineated constellations with a laser-pointer while narrating their celestial mythology.
Ultimately, the night’s purview was aesthetic: to appreciate the discrete pointillism of the night sky and to take in telescopic glimpses of glowing nebulas.
The club will reconvene for another public telescope observation on Saturday, July 10 at the Museum of Natural History and again on Friday, July 16 at the Westmont Observatory.