Shortly after sunset on Saturday, November 23, Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest planets, will put on a thrilling show by appearing like they’re headed for a collision, although Jupiter is actually 4 times farther away. 

This dramatic twilight pairing called a conjunction places them merely 1.5 degrees apart — just a finger’s width at arm’s length! This event can be observed during Tulare Astronomical Association’s Public Viewing Event on Saturday, November 23. 

This special Star Party will take place at the Arthur Pursell Observatory 7 miles southwest of Tulare. Because Venus and Jupiter will sink below the horizon shortly after 6 p.m., this unique event will begin promptly at 5:30  p.m. Those attending need to be on time. The event ends at 9 p.m.. The cost is $5 for those 12 and older. Those attending should also bring their own chair.

Before Jupiter slides below the horizon, it’s possible 3 of the Galilean moons (Io, Europa, and Callisto) can be viewed through a telescope as well as the rings of Saturday. After viewing the bright Venus-Jupiter planetary pairing, the group will assemble inside the Stan Manro Astro Physics Center for a short preview of the objects that will be observed that night. 

As the sky darkens, the group again congregate outside for a short tour of the constellations and bright stars visible in the night sky. Visitors will then be able to look through the TAA’s 12.5-inch Cave Astrola (Newtonian) Telescope in the observing dome as well as through about 6 TAA members personal telescopes. Each telescope will feature a different celestial object. 

Featured telescopic objects will include Uranus with its blue-greenish hue, as well as Neptune, the farthest planet from the sun. A total of 6 of the 8 planets may be viewed. Viewing conditions are forecasted to be excellent, dark, moonless, and clear, perfect for stargazing, ideal for viewing more challenging targets like Planetary Nebulas including the Blue Snowball Nebula (NGC 7662), the Little Dumbell Nebula (M76, NGC 650, NGC 651), the Cat’s Eye Nebula (NGC 6543), and the Blinking Planetary Nebula (NGC 6826), as well as several spiral galaxies like NGC 891, the Sculptor Galaxy (NGC 253), and the Great Andromeda Galaxy. (M31, NGC 224).  M31 is the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way, 2.5 million light-years from Earth. 

it’s the farthest object that can be seen with the naked eye! This spiral galaxy contains an estimated one trillion stars about twice the number found in our Milky Way. 

Telescopes will also be used to separate several Double Stars, including Polaris, the North Star, Stigma Cassiopeiae, Eta Cassiopeiae, as well as the colorful, Alberto, known as the most beautiful double star. 

Bring binoculars as they provide excellent viewing of open clusters like the Pleiades (M45) known as the “Seven Sisters;” the Owl Cluster (NGC 457) — which contains 2 bright star that look like owl eyes; Messier 52 (NGC 7654) the famous Double Cluster (NGC 869, NGC 884); the Globular Cluster Messier 15 (NGC 7078; and possibly even Uranus and the Milky Way Galxy. 

The Arthur Pursell Observatory (APO) is located at 9242 Ave 184 Tulare, about half way between Tulare and Tipton. Travel on on Highway 99 and turn west on Ave 184; drive west about 3.4 miles on Avenue 184 until reaching the signed APO entranced driveway (about 0.5 miles beyond the Road 96 intersection). Drive north on this entrance road a short distance to the APO parking area. 

If the sky is too cloudy, foggy or raining, the event may be canceled. Cancellations are usually decided by 4 p.m. the day of the event (Check TAA’s Facebook page). If the gate is closed the event has been canceled.

For further information, contact Reece Williford, (559) 592-4379 or rtwill2@verizon.net

In addition, only Red light flashlights can be used in the observing area. White light can be used in the parking lot. Gates will open at 5 p.m.

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