Planet Party

Come join the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club and the ETSU Physics Department on the ETSU campus to view the four brightest planets with the aid of a small fleet of telescopes! On July 27th and August 3rd, from 9:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m., Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars will be visible!

While all four of these planets are visible during the summer, the two observing dates that have been set are important as they take advantage of the opposition of Mars. The opposition of Mars provides a multi-week window of opportunity to see Mars look a little bigger in a telescope than at other times. This occurs when Earth overtakes Mars in its orbit as Earth orbits the Sun faster than Mars. At this time, Earth and Mars will be the closest together in their orbits. The result is that quality telescopes, at a high power, and if the sky is steady, can eek out general surface details. Features hoped to see on Mars include dark, lava covered lowlands and light reddish highlands. If we are lucky, we might spy the southern pole with an ice cap.

Venus will not show features as it is always enshrouded by clouds, and will look about the same visual size as Mars. Jupiter and Saturn will show a good amount of features as the planets will look twice as large as Mars in a telescope. Jupiter’s main dark belts and light zones of its enormous atmosphere highlight the planet’s visual features. Jupiter’s four largest moons will also be visible. Saturn sports its eye-catching rings while the planet Saturn has difficult gas atmosphere surface features to see. Some of the larger moons of Saturn can also be seen.

The observing events are free and open to the public. The group will meet at Parking Lot 22A, which runs parallel to the Go Bucs Trail, near West State of Franklin. Enter campus to access the lot from Jack Vest Drive. If it is too cloudy or raining, the event is canceled.