MTS Observatory
Open House Program

Please join us—clear skies permitting—for one of our upcoming MTS Observatory open house programs.

April Highlights: Mars, lying above Spica in Virgo, reaches opposition on April 8th when its magnitude will be -1.5 and its angular diameter 15.1 arc seconds.   Due to the fact that Mars, and to a lesser extend, the Earth have elliptical orbits, its distance from us at opposition can vary from ~54 to 102 million km.   As a result the angular size will vary from ~13 to 25 arc seconds - a major difference.   The angular size at opposition is now increasing to reach 18.6 arc seconds in May 2016 and 24.31 arc seconds in July 2018.   Sadly,this year, Mars' elevation when on the meridian will only be ~30 degrees, so the atmosphere will limit our view somewhat but given a night of good seeing and a small telescope the planet's main features should be seen such as the north polar cap and Syrtis Major - a triangular shaped dark region.

Jupiter is now well past opposition but this is a still a good month to observe this giant of planets.   It now lies Gemini and so is high in the ecliptic and hence, when due south, at an elevation of ~60 degrees and is high in the sky in the early evening.   Though Jupiter's angular size falls from ~42 down to ~38 arc seconds throughout the month, a small telescope can see lots of details - surely one should be on your shopping list if you do not have one!   It is looking somewhat different than in the last few years as the north equatorial belt has become quite broad.   The Great Red Spot has recently become more prominent and can be easily seen as a large feature in the South Equatorial Belt.

The features seen in the Jovian atmosphere have been changing quite significantly over the last few years - for a while the South Equatorial Belt vanished completely (as seen in Damian's image) but has now returned to its normal wide state.   The diagram on right shows the main Jovian features as imaged by the author at the beginning of December 2012.   The highlight below gives the times when the GRS is facing us.


A few notes for those planning to attend our Open House programs:

¤      Check for cloudy conditions before departing.

¤      Dress very warmly.

¤      Young astronomers (K-2) are welcome, but please monitor closely.



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Founded in 2005, the MTS Observatory is a 12' x 17' roll-off roof observatory located on the MTS campus. Featuring a Celestron 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with an adjustable height pier, the MTS Observatory affords High School-caliber observation and study of stars, planets, nebulae, galaxies, the Sun and other celestial objects.

The MTS Observatory will complement our academic curricula while enabling students and adults alike to see stars, planets, sunspots, moons, rings, nebulae and galaxies with their "own eyes." Our goal is to enrich students' education and personal experiences and rekindle awareness of the universe around us that is too often hidden from our view.

If you would like to receive brief email notifications regarding the new MTS Observatory and our Open House programs, please send fill out the form with your name and email address. After subscribing you will be sent a confirmation email within 24 hours. The MTS Observatory will send occasional email reminders to all subscribers about Open House programs, last minute closure notices when the fog rolls in, and other simple email messages regarding the Observatory program.

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"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day." - Albert Einstein


© 2015 Mount Tamalpais School