Westmont opens the doors to its observatory Friday, November 19, aiming the powerful Keck Telescope toward Jupiter, hoping to catch a wink of the Great Red Spot. Every third Friday of the month, Westmont welcomes the public to a free viewing held in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit. The viewing begins at 7:30 p.m. and lasts several hours.
Jupiter, which is much higher in the sky this month, has the potential to dazzle the public. The gas giant’s characteristic red stripes, the South Equatorial Belt, have been in the news lately. The bands, which began fading last year and had completely disappeared in May, have returned.
The moon, lying in the constellation of Aries (the Ram), will be two days from full Nov. 19, dominating the night sky. “But we should get wonderful views of the ray or ejecta structures emanating from the craters Copernicus and Kepler that will be in the full light of the sun,” says Tom Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor.
Despite the bright moon, Whittemore says we may also be able to catch glimpses of some of the brightest open clusters in the constellations of Taurus (the Bull), Auriga (the Charioteer), Perseus (the Hero) and Cassiopeia (the Queen).