Star Gazing - See the moon, stars, planets and more at observatories around Southwest Florida!
I have a friend who belongs to the Southwest Florida Astronomical Society and she invited me to one of their events, a viewing session at the James and Barbara Moore Observatory at the Florida South Western State College Charlotte campus in Punta Gorda.
This cute little observatory is the only one surrounded by water on 3 sides in the US. It has 2 huge telescopes ........ one is inside, the other is outside on the deck. I also brought my binoculars and was able to observe night objects through them as well.
Members from the SWFL Astrological Society manned the telescopes, explained what was going on on the sky, and answered questions.
We went inside first and watched as the dome roof opened up to reveal the dusky sky. First up was the moon. We saw its craters quite clearly and even saw some that looked like a burrowing owl ........ perfect for Cape Coral!
If you look at the 7:00 position in the photo above, you might be able to see the little owl.
We could also see what we were observing through the telescope on a computer that was set up nearby.
Then the SWFLAS member moved the telescope around and focused on Jupiter. I could make out the stripes of gases that make up the planet and I even saw 4 of Jupiter's moons!
The photo I took below captures Jupiter with 2 of its moons:
It was very tricky trying to take photos through the telescope lens! We then went outside where we saw Mars ..... yup, it was kind of red.
Since it was a bit cloudy low in the sky that night, we were going to have to wait to see Saturn ........ I ended up leaving, it was getting late, and didn't get a chance to see it.
But, I did get to see a Messier Object ..... something I'd never heard of before. A Messier is a deep space object that can be nebulae, star clusters, or galaxies. They show up as a whitish spot when looking through the telescope.
They are named after the man who discovered them, Charles Messier, and are numbered M1-M110.
Before I left, I saw the Big Dipper, which I was familiar with while living in Connecticut.
I learned a lot at the viewing session and hope to go again. Inside the observatory are photographs taking from the Hubble Spacecraft, including the one below. It was shot into dark space where astronomers thought nothing existed ........ as you can see, there are tons of galaxies!
If you're interested, contact the SWFL Astronomical Society about meetings, star gazing events, and other activities.
Go to the Florida South Western website to get the schedule for the monthly viewing sessions from September - May that are open to the public.
You can also go to the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium in Ft Myers for more star gazing, laser shows, solar observations, monthly programs, museum, nature trails, butterfly and bird aviaries, and live reptiles.
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