Observatory re-construction is almost complete! Photos of our progress are on the news page.
I will be in south Texas in November so no viewing opportunities will occur. We'll get right back in the saddle in December! We have the Geminid Meteor Shower which peaks in the early morning hours of December 14th. We'll have viewing for them on the evening of the 13th. Check here for more information. If you haven't already heard we have a comet approaching which will reach it's brightest in mid December. A few weeks ago I started to see some of the major news outlets put out information on it. As usual they inflated expections. Some early reports indicated the comet might not be as good as the original predictions. Since then observations are looking pretty good. You can find more information here - make sure you check the "current status" link after reading this page.
Here is a link to a NASA page which shows the comet's orbit. You can play with the menu - 3 horizontal lines - in the upper left corner of the diagram. Set it to Look At 46P/Wirtenan and Look From above. In the upper right of the diagram you can play one frame at a time or continuous frames - forward or reverse. You can set the time for each frame. You can expand the diagram to full page. You can use the wheel of your mouse to zoom in or out. You can also use the left button of your mouse to drag things around. You'll see that the 14th to 16th of December are great times to view the comet!
At this point things are looking pretty good, but a famous comet scientist said something very true years ago. Comets are like cats; they both have tails and they do what they want to. I'll explain in detail why this is true when you come out to visit :) The comet could be very nice. We'll have to wait and see. Don't expect anything like Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997!
One more thing, we will have a nice total lunar eclipse on January 20-21 of 2019! Go to this link, scroll down if necessary, and push play to see the animation which includes the times. Even though it occurs on a Sunday night, we'll offer a viewing session!
Bring a lawn chair if possible Please note these sessions are cancelled if the sky conditions/weather are not good. What does that mean? Well, (optical) telescopes can't see through clouds! It will need to be almost perfectly clear. The next potential problem is wind. If the wind velocity is more than about 10 mi/hr - that's too much! A telescope magnifies the size of the objects we view - and the effects of the wind! Please check the ClearSkyClock and weather links on the home page of this site! What if you're in doubt the observing session will take place? If it's not perfectly clear and calm, you can call (308) 293-5776 before leaving for the session!
From O'Neill Nebraska take US HWY 281 north to Road 883 (Johnson's Three Eagles). Turn left (west) 2 miles to 490 Avenue. Turn right (north) 0.6 mile to the red gate. Proceed north of the gate another few hunbdred feet. You will see the entrance on the right. We will have you park along the fence near the entrance. Be advised there is an electric fence on 3 sides of the building location. I will be putting up signs on the highway and at Ave 490 that say "Star Party" Please call or e-mail to register so I know how many people to plan for!
No viewing in November. I will be out of state. Sorry!
Thursday December 13th 8:00 PM. Even though it will have been dark for a while, we'll wait a bit to start looking for meteors which are best viewed after midnight anyway. We'll be able to look at the moon, Uranus, and Comet Wirtenan as well. Comet Wirtenan's closest approach to the sun will be occuring and its closet approach to Earth will come on Sunday December 16th! This comet might be naked eye visible! Bring warm clothes and a chaise lounge or blanket to lay on the ground.
Saturday December 15th 8:00 PM. We will be essentially at Comet 46P Wirtenan's perigee (closest to earth). This viewing session will allow anyone that could not make it for the Geminid viewing to see the comet. It will also allow a chance to see the comet if the weather didn't cooperate on Thursday. The moon will be at 1st quarter which will hinder comet viewing a bit. I will probably stay out until after midnight when the moon sets to photograph the comet. Any brave souls who can stand the cold can wait with me :) Bring warm clothes and a chair. We do have hot water and instant coffee/cocoa at the observatory - but no restrooms!
If you want to know about all Tri-City and O'Neill Area astronomical opportunities available free to the public this month, check here!
If you would like to help us move, call us at 308-293-5776 before 10:00 PM daily or contact by e-mail.
We look forward to seeing you!
When visiting the observatory, here are some rules/recommendations you should consider:
1) Please stay in or close to the observatory. This
facility is located on private property, which is not mine. Please
show your thanks to the owners by keeping the area clean and
2) Please, while in the observatory, don't touch anything unless you ask and/or have been instructed as to the proper use of the instrument!
3) Bring a lawn chair for each member of your group, that is if you plan on staying a while, as we hope you will. If it is clear, please keep in mind that it often takes a while to find objects for you to look at. Often there are others in line to see these things as well. If it is cloudy, you are welcome to pull up a chair and ask as many questions as you like. We have some chairs, but not many.
4) Bring a flashlight for dark-sky observing sessions! (If the moon is in the sky, you may not need it.) You will need one of these to safely navigate from your car to the building. We purposely don't have any lights in the area of the facility. Once in the building, we generally ask that you don't use your flashlight (with its white bulb) unless you ask. We have red lights which will help you see where you are going inside the building!
5) No smoking is allowed in or around the building!
6) In winter, please bring plenty of warm clothing! This can't be over stressed. Standing still in the cold is nothing like being active in it! Wear several layers and don't forget those gloves/mittens and something for your head. There is no such thing as glamour when it comes to staying warm! There is no heat in the observatory!
7) In Summer - don't forget the mosquito repellant!
8) Be advised there are no bathroom facilities in the observatory!
9) No boisterous behavior within the observatory, or around it, will be tolerated!
10) Help us keep gates closed so as to not let cattle out! Please don't disturb the cattle. If you like them, admire them from a distance!
Worried about the threat of light pollution in your area? For more information on it and how you can help educate others to enjoy lights AND the night sky - check out our light pollution page and the link page!
Keep Looking Around!
Mark Urwiller - Web Page Administrator
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