Have a favorite planet? HRPO personnel set aside nights every year to focus on the planets in our Solar System so you and your family, friends and co-workers can get an “up close” view of the terrestrial or gas giant that’s number one on your list. If possible, see all of them! There’s never any out-of-pocket expense for looking through Highland Road Park Observatory’s telescopes.
For 2021 the gas giant oppositions are traffic-jammed into a period slightly shorter than two months. Venus♀ has a sole evening elongation during the calendar year, while Mercury☿ has three. Mercury☿ and Venus♀ will be viewed at Burbank (it goes down with the Sun) for ninety minutes per elongation. The gas giants each receive the customary two hours each for an opposition. Mars♂ will receive four hours of viewing time for its next opposition in December 2022.
Saturday 23 January, 5:15 pm to 6:45 pm CST [in Capricornicus♑; mag -0.5]
Sunday 16 May, 7:45 pm to 9:15 pm CDT [in Taurus♉; mag 0.45]
Monday 13 September, 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm CDT [in Virgo♍; mag 0.1]
at the Burbank Soccer Complex
The wonderful MESSENGER spacecraft spent over a year leisurely orbiting the closest planet to the Sun☉, gathering a wealth of images and data. We envy that craft, as Mercury☿ is the most difficult planet to see—but we’ll try our best! The eastern elongations of Mercury☿ allow viewing of the planet while it is its farthest in angular separation from the Sun☉. Mercury☿ will dip down toward the horizon as personnel train a variety of equipment on it for patrons.
Wednesday 26 May, 10:15 pm to 11:45 pm CDT [mag -12.8]
After a large demand from patrons, we've decided to experiment and open for this event. If it’s a success, we’ll incorporate it into our standard celestial events programming. The joy of viewing a rising Supermoon comes from the actual nearness of the Moon combined with the as of yet unexplained psychological effect to the Moon appearing larger on the horizon. The effect is stunning!
Sunday 1 August, 9:45 pm to 11:45 pm CDT [mag 0.0]
The spacecraft Cassini has left an amazing legacy of images and data. However, there’s no substituting the light from Saturn♄’s clouds and rings entering a telescope and then your pupil. When lucky, you can glimpse its largest moon Titan! Right now Saturn♄ is in the constellation Capricornus♑. There will be no viewing at HRPO on Saturday 31 July.
PERSEID METEOR SHOWER
Wednesday 11 August, 10:00 pm to 2:00 am CDT
Date may change by one day. Check dedicated Perseid page when it appears.
The Perseids are one of the major meteor showers of the year, caused by debris left from the passings of Comet☄ Swift-Tuttle. Come learn about meteors and let’s see if we can spot some “earthgrazers.” Although telescopes aren’t needed for the Perseids, we’ll have a telescope available from until midnight for leisurely gazing at Jupiter♃ and Saturn♄. But look fast for the meteors; Perseid meteoroids hit our atmosphere traveling about sixty kilometers a second! If you’re lucky, you may see a fireball.
Friday 20 August, 9:30 pm to 11:30 pm CDT [mag -2.9]
The king of the planets is always a stunning sight. On this date it will be in the constellation Capricornus♑. Its four Galilean moons—Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto—will be seen easily seen as well. In fact, Io and Europa will actually move further from Jupiter♃. The Juno spacecraft gathered a lot of data. Will manned spacecraft ever orbit or visit Jupiter♃? There will be no lecture on this night.
Tuesday 14 September, 9:45 pm to 11:45 pm CDT [mag 7.7]
It’s the windiest planet—far away, but its distinctive blue tint is apparent. The Voyager 2 spacecraft provided an incredible amount of information. Visitors will be viewing the farthest “official” planet while it resides in the constellation Aquarius♒; it doesn’t leave that constellation until 2023! Telescopes are required to see Neptune♆! There will be no viewing at HRPO on Friday 17 September..
Friday 29 October, 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm CDT [in Ophiuchus; mag -4.4]
at the Burbank Soccer Complex
How beautiful and Hellish at once! The brightest natural night object (not counting Earth♁’s Moon) will shine brilliantly as it sets. The eastern elongations of Venus♀ allows viewing of the planet while it is its farthest in angular separation from the Sun☉. Compare the planet’s brightness with that of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, which will be up as well (along with the Pleiades).
Thursday 4 November, 8:45 pm to 10:45 pm CDT [mag 5.4]
It’s the tiltiest planet, far away, but its distinctive blue-green tint showcased in Voyager 2 images is apparent. Neither Uranus♅ nor Neptune♆ has any spacecraft currently investigating them…for now. Uranus♅ will remain in its current home—Aries♈—through at least 2023. Binoculars are required to see Uranus♅!
PARTIAL LUNAR ECLIPSE
from Thursday 18 November at 11:00 pm CST
to Friday 19 November 5:00 am CST
Although this is technically a partial eclipse, a vast majority of the Moon will enter the Earth♁’s shadow. The result will be our sole natural satellite in Taurus♉, completely immersed except for one small sliver near the crater Tycho. The Moon will also be in conjunction with the Pleiades!
GEMINID METEOR SHOWER
Monday 13 December, 9:00 pm to 1:00 am CST
Date may change by one day. Check dedicated Geminid page when it appears.
The Geminid meteors, in addition to being part of one of the most reliable showers of the year, are quite intriguing and were first noticed in the 1860s. The waxing gibbous Moon may blot out the dimmer meteors, but it will be lower in the west during the final hour.
Updated by Frederick J. Barnett on Friday, July 16, 2021, 05:37 PM.