Highland Road Park Observatory
2013 PLANET TIMES
Have a favorite planet? HRPO sets aside one Saturday annually for each planet in our Solar System so you and your family, friends and coworkers can get an “up close” view of the terrestrial or gas giant that’s #1 on your list. Or… try to see all of them! As usual, there’s never any out-of-pocket expense for looking through HRPO’s two large reflectors.
For each gas giants, we reserve the Moonless Saturday during which each appears highest in the sky during our public hours.
Mercury and Venus each get two two-hour sessions due to their descending with the Sun and therefore the added difficulty of seeing them in a telescope.
Due to its proximity to the Sun, there will not be a Planet Time for Mars in 2013.
Jupiter: 2 February, 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
The king of the planets (this night in the constellation Taurus) is always a delight, with the visible cloud bands and its four Galilean moons—Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto—easily seen as well. The Galileans are always in a different configuration from night to night. How many of them will be seen this night?
Mercury: 16 February, 3:45 pm to 5:45 pm
NASA extended the wonderful MESSENGER mission a few months ago. We envy that craft, as Mercury is the most difficult planet to see! For this first viewing session the swiftest planet will be in Aquarius.
Mercury: 8 June, 6:15 pm to 8:15 pm
If you missed it in the winter, we’ll be opening early again. Gemini will be the target constellation this time—Mercury doesn’t stay in any one constellation for long!
Saturn: 6 July, 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm
The spacecraft Cassini has been doing seemingly endless loops and swoops around Saturn and its moons, showing us things we'd never seen before. Well, from our vantage point on Earth, the angle of this planet’s majestic rings is widening by the month! This night Saturn is in the constellation Virgo.
Venus: 13 July, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
The Magellan spacecraft made the first global map of Venus’ surface. They are similar in size, mass and distance from the Sun. But—Venus has no oceans and temperatures hot enough to melt lead! As with Mercury, we’ll open early for this beauty—it’ll be in Leo.
Uranus: 30 November, 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
It’s the tiltiest planet, far away, but its distinctive blue-green tint showcased in Voyager 2 images is apparent. Visitors will be viewing Uranus as it resides in the constellation Pisces. Neither Uranus nor Neptune has any spacecraft currently investigating them…for now.
Neptune: 2 November, 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm
It's the windiest planet—far away, but its distinctive blue tint is apparent. The Voyager spacecraft provided an incredible amount of information. Visitors will be viewing the farthest “official” planet while it resides in the constellation Aquarius.
Venus: 7 December, 3:45 pm to 5:45 pm
The second opportunity of the year to see the brightest planet in the sky awaits on this day. Venus will glow brilliantly in the constellation Sagittarius.
Updated by Frederick J. Barnett on Friday, February 01, 2013 12:12:52 PM