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Free telescope viewing of planets, comet slated

Citizen Staff Writer



Venus, Saturn and Comet Lulin will soon offer unusually good celestial viewing opportunities.

To take advantage, the University of Arizona Flandrau Science Center, the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and the UA Students for the Exploration and Development of Space will offer free telescope viewing on Feb. 27 and March 6-7, said Michael Terenzoni, Flandrau astronomy coordinator.

“This is unusual, the year’s best opportunity to look at these objects,” Terenzoni said. “The rings of Saturn head on, the crescent of Venus when Venus is at its brightest, and a fairly bright comet – by astronomers’ standards.”

The public will be able to look through Flandrau’s 16-inch observatory telescope, its HyperStar imaging system and an array of scopes set up on the UA Mall by the Flandrau Science Center.

Telescope viewing is free but donations are accepted.

Venus, in its crescent phase, is bright and getting larger in apparent size, Terenzoni said.

On Feb. 27 Venus will be visible during the day as it appears very close to the edge of the waxing crescent moon, he said.

Comet Lulin, discovered in 2007, is not expected to be visible to the unaided eye in suburban settings, he said.

Flandrau’s HyperStar imaging system, which when linked to a telescope and high-resolution video screen, allows viewers to see much fainter items than they normally could, like the comet’s tail, he said.

Saturn will offer peak viewing opportunities March 8 when it is at opposition, or when Earth is positioned between Saturn and the sun, he said.

“It is fully illuminated when it is opposite the sun in the sky,” Terenzoni said. “At opposition it is generally near its brightest.”

Flandrau’s scope will allow viewers to see Saturn’s rings nearly edge on, he said.

Tucson offers a premier opportunity to see the celestial events, he said.

“You can’t do this in other parts of the country,” he said. “The sky is so much better here to see this stuff. There is less schmutz in the sky.”

UA Flandrau Science Center offers free celestial viewings


What: Free telescope viewing of Venus, Saturn and comet Lulin

When: 5:30-9 p.m. Feb. 27 and 6-9:30 p.m. March 6 and 7

Where: University of Arizona Flandrau Science Center, 1601 E. University Blvd.

Cost: Telescope viewing is free with donations accepted; planetarium shows and exhibits are $7.50 for adults, $5 for kids ages 4-9.

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