SEE COMET LULIN AT THE ROLNICK OBSERVATORY
February 21, 2009 @ 12:00 am EST
The Westport Astronomical Society (WAS) opens the grounds to the public for a special Comet Viewing and Free Star Party Saturday, February 21, 2009 from 8:30 - 10:30 pm, at the Rolnick Observatory at 182 Bayberry Lane in Westport, Connecticut, and is free of charge. Weather permitting. Sky lovers of all ages are invited to come and join and welcome Comet Lulin on its brief visit to our neighborhood. This is a rare opportunity to see a comet on its first trip by the Sun.
Comet C/2007 N3 (Lulin) was discovered in July 2007 and is believed to be on its first trip through the inner Solar System. By February 21, it is expected to be at its brightest and moving very quickly across the sky – so quickly, in fact, that observers will be able to see its movement against the star field over short periods of time. And because this is Lulin's first pass close to our Sun, it is expected to be a very bright comet, easily visible through telescopes and binoculars.
Comet viewers should expect to see a glowing green ball with a tail, in the constellation Virgo moving towards Leo. The green glow is caused by gas that is heated as the comet approaches the Sun. As Lulin nears the Sun, the glow brightens and the tail lengthens in size. Lulin will be at its closest to the Sun in late February, so the Star Party offers an opportunity to see the comet at its brightest.
The Society will offer viewing of Comet Lulin through its 12.5" Newtonian telescope under the Rolnick Observatory dome. Visitors will be able to view other astronomical objects through the Society's 25" Obsession Dobsonian telescope, which is the largest telescope available for public viewing in the State of Connecticut. WAS volunteers will be on hand to guide visitors through the sky, and answer questions about astronomy. They will also be passing out star maps and astronomy postcards, and discussing the increasing threat of light pollution to the skies of Westport.
Visitors should dress for February weather – hats, warm jackets and mittens or gloves are recommended. Things to bring include binoculars and a sense of wonder. The Society grounds are well-lit with special red lights to preserve night vision; white light flashlights should be left at home.
Comet Lulin will also be visible during the Society's Public Astronomy Nights on Wednesday and Thursday, February 25 and 26. WAS's volunteer members host Public Astronomy Nights at the Rolnick Observatory every Wednesday and Thursday evening, all year, from 8:00-10:00 pm, weather permitting. All Public Nights are free of charge but donations are greatly appreciated.
WAS Members are also available for classroom visits, youth group events, scouts and other public events catering to students of all ages. Directions to the Observatory as well as WAS's schedule of programs may be found on-line at www.was-ct.org. Further information may also be obtained by calling the Rolnick Observatory at (203) 227-0925, or by email to WASRolnick@gmail.com