(2.6) Finally! A Tuesday night with clear skies. Keep in mind, weather can be changeable, but as of this morning, staff astronomer Francine Jackson was inviting the public to tonight’s open house. I encourage you to follow her weekly newsletters as they are packed with skywatching news and astronomy history. This week she reminds us of the comet Kahoutek, the ill-fated but scientifically worthy Skylab*, as well as the ancient Egyptians.
Last time, I mentioned the importance of the brightest night time star, Sirius, not necessarily in the evening as a part of the winter sky, but in the morning, when it rises right before sunrise (its heliacal rising) alerting farmers to begin to create channels for the Nile River to flow onto their land at flood time.
The Brown University Ladd Observatory opened in 1891 under the direction of Professor Winslow Upton. Go check it out.
The observatory has a running Tuesday evening open house on their schedule. (If the clouds move in, the front door will not be open.) When you go, they usually have the large telescope aimed at a particular object; you will need to climb a short ladder. They also have one or two free-standing telescopes up out on the deck.
*Skylab’s orbit eventually decayed and it disintegrated in the atmosphere on July 11, 1979, scattering debris across the Indian Ocean and Western Australia. I held a Skylab party that day with a prize for largest piece retrieved. I guess we should have gone to Perth.