Seeing stars

Public invited to view night sky through new UI telescope

click to enlarge Seeing stars
William Miller/University of Idaho graduate student
The University of Idaho Observatory houses the new telescope.

University of Idaho students will soon use the school’s new telescope to view galaxies, star clusters and planets, but this Friday and Saturday the public is invited to try it out.

The College of Science is throwing star parties from 7-10 p.m. both evenings at the UI Observatory, on the Moscow campus, where Department of Physics faculty and students will demonstrate the new telescope and identify celestial objects for guests.

The telescope, a 20-inch Imaging Dall Kirkham reflector, will be used for teaching and research, according to a UI news release. Faculty members also plan to offer occasional public observing nights at the telescope, mostly in summer and fall, when skies are clear.

The telescope’s large diameter and precise pointing let viewers see objects deeper into space and farther away from light sources, allowing astronomers to observe dimmer astronomical objects, including galaxies and nebulae, physics professor Jason Barnes said. It also allows them to capture short exposure images, which help measure the brightness of stars, explore solar systems and minimize the twinkling of solar system planets that inhibits image quality.

“Students and the public alike will really appreciate the opportunity to bring the stars back home to the Palouse, and to get firsthand views of the celestial objects in the night sky that we’ve only seen in pictures,” Barnes said. “We’re really looking forward to being able to put the new instrument to use over the coming years.”

Parking isn’t available at the observatory, so event attendees are asked to park across the street from the Wallace Residence Center, at 1080 W. Sixth St., in lots 17, 19 and 56. The Vandal Trolley will provide transportation from a bus shelter in front of Wallace.

Participants are advised to wear sturdy shoes and to bring lawn chairs and water. Cloudy skies will cancel that night’s event.