Astronomy hosts public observing night

Astronomy hosts public observing night
Sam MacDonald / Alabama Crimson White

The Department of Physics and Astronomy's public observation night at the Moundville Archeological Park on Friday at 7 p.m.

Hollywood stars will shine on Sunday at the Oscars, but it will take a telescope to catch the real deal tomorrow night. 

The Astronomy group within the Department of Physics and Astronomy will host its monthly public observation night at the Moundville Archeological Park on Friday at 7 p.m.

Every month the Astronomy group hosts a public night for people to come out and view the sky through several different telescopes on and off campus. The event is free to everyone and will end at 10 p.m. This is the third one this semester.

Ronald Buta, event host and astronomy professor, said they decided to use Moundville Archeological Park because campus had too much light pollution, making it difficult to view some of the things that they hope to capture.

“We have one of the largest telescopes in the world to view things like the Orion Nebula,” Buta said. “The night sky has a lot of interesting things to see.”

The Moundville Archeological park is a National Historic Landmark that contains over 26 large pyramid-shaped mounds within its 320 acres. The park is located approximately 16 miles south of Tuscaloosa.

Several members of the UA Astronomical Society will assist with the event.

UA Astronomical Society president and founder, Ray Schlösser, said he always encourages some members of the organization to help out in the public night in any way that they are needed.

“The public nights are always packed,” said Schlösser, a senior majoring in astrophysics. “It’s a great way to meet new people, so I never have any complaints from any members about volunteering to be part of the event.”

The Astronomical Society was founded for the purpose of introducing astrophysics majors to one another for career opportunities. They are currently in the process of planning trips to several graduate schools. The society will host its own observation nights later in the semester.

“Our society gives younger students a great opportunity to meet others with their major,” Schlösser said, “This helps them make better decisions on which courses to take and which professor to select.”

Spectators will get the opportunity to look at the night sky through telescopes of different sizes. The telescopes are going to be placed in front of the Moundville Archeological Museum. All are welcome to come and gaze at the night sky with Professor Buta and company.

This public night is one of the astronomy group's deep-sky observing sessions. The group will use their 16 inch and 17 inch telescopes to view some of the hidden features of the night sky.

There is also a good chance they will use their 20 inch telescope, "The Big Little Telescope," that was recently donated to the department. The telescope is set up on a pad in the field across the road from the museum. The park will not charge anyone for entering the park after hours.

Buta said he is hoping that the weather will allow them to have a successful gazing experience. The skies were clear on the previous public night. If the weather does not permit, the event will be cancelled, with alerts on the astronomy department's website.

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