YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — The summer months are always a great time to look up at the night sky. But, have you ever looked up towards the stars and ended up a little underwhelmed?
On Saturday, August 14 from 8 to 10 p.m. you can see the depths of space like never before. The Rudy Park Observatory will be hosting a public StarWatch that’s free and open to the public.
But a StarWatch is more than just looking at some celestial constellations, it’s an educational experience that even the most casual of astronomers can enjoy. “A public star watch is an opportunity to experience some casual, amateur astronomy. We’ll have a presentation on the Perseid Meteor Shower, the use of star maps to find constellations, and information on what is happening in our solar system this month will start the evening event,” Planetarium Director Todd Ullery said.
After all the prep work and warm-ups, guests can start getting hands-on experience. “Once it is dark enough, there are constellations to point out with some star lore. Using the star maps, guests learn a few constellations at a time,” Ullery said. Have some stargazing equipment collecting dust or want to learn a few pointers? Bring it with you, and learn how to maximize its use. “Guests can bring their telescope to learn how to use it; often uncle ‘Dave’ gives the telescope but no directions on how to use it. Our members enjoy sharing their experience with the public and this is how we learned about astronomy originally.”
If that still doesn’t sound like enough, don’t worry, there’s plenty more that the observatory has to offer. “On the third Saturday of the month, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., we offer solar observing with special telescope equipment to filter out the harmful light of the sun and allow people to view sunspots and prominences,” Ullery said. “Radio astronomy is an interesting way of learning about our universe using ‘invisible’ light. Using a radio telescope, we detect the sun, trees, and people emitting radio waves.”
The observatory is also looking forward to welcoming some new equipment, and along with it new opportunities and partnerships. “In the future, a 15-foot diameter radio telescope will be on site which can be used to detect pulsars (cores of dead stars the size of a city and spinning 30 times a second) and the rotation of the Milky Way Galaxy. This radio telescope is under construction as part of our partnership with York College of Pennsylvania and the York County Parks System,” Ullery said.
In fact, the observatory will be welcoming NASA later in the fall. “The group has been selected by NASA to host a James Webb Space Telescope launch party in early November. At the event, a NASA scientist will discuss the JWST construction, operation, and capabilities. The JWST is expected to be launched in early November 2021. There will be another presentation in May 2022 with the first light images of the telescope being presented,” Ullery said.
It’s a lot to take in, and if you can’t fit it all into one visit, don’t worry! “Star watches occur each month on the second Saturday, from 8 to 10 p.m. There are also special occasions when the observatory will be open, such as lunar eclipses, planetary conjunctions, and meteor showers,” Ullery said.
All those special events are sure to excite any astronomer and Ullery is no different. But, what truly excites him, is being able to teach others on a truly expansive subject. “I love to see people learn something new and be able to apply their knowledge to something they had not considered before. Educational outreach has been a primary mission of the York County Astronomical Society,” Ullery said.