Kiwanis Chico Community Observatory

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News -- Spring 2006


KCCO Improvements

    Some regular visitors may have noticed the observatory has been closed for the past couple weeks (2/23-3/10) and not just due to bad weather. The primary change visitor will notice is that our telescope piers have been replaced. The new sand-filled piers will absorb vibrations much better then the hollow piers, and much of the wiring is now run through the piers.

 

Cameron Park Observatory

    The Cameron Park Observatory near Sacramento, had their ceremonial opening January 14th. The Observatory funded by the local Rotary Club, used KCCO as a model. Our own director Kris Koenig worked with the club as consultant. Some changes from KCCO are: a classroom area for field trips, sand filled telescope piers, and a flat rooftop. You can visit their website for more info.

 

Saturn visible

    The ringed planet of our solar system can now be seen during our open hours. Saturn had much publicity recently as the Cassini spacecraft began orbiting it last year. Saturn is visible in the later hours of the evening and can be seen in the Eastern sky. Below are maps to find the planet with the naked eye. Visit our page on the Solar System for more information.

 

    Star chart of the night sky (~9 pm early March).

    Star chart of the morning sky (~4 am late March).

 

Gorgeous Stars

    There are many bright stars in the evening right now.  The brightest in the sky is the dog star, Sirius (in Canis Major). This blue giant is the brightest star in our night sky and is often mistaken for a plane!  There are also some well known binary systems -- groups of two or more stars orbiting around each other -- Castor (in Gemini) and M40 in Ursa Major.  These stars are all visible in our telescopes for most of the Spring season.

 

Other Highlights of the Night Sky

    There are many Messier objects visible at the observatory currently.  Some of the most exciting visible objects in this catalogue are:

  • M42 Great Orion Nebula (in Orion)

  • M45 Pleiades or Seven Sisters (in Taurus)

  • M37 open cluster (in Auriga)

  • M44 Beehive (in Cancer)

  • M82 Cigar Galaxy (in Ursa Major)

  • M1 Crab Nebula (in Taurus)

    These objects vary from fairly bright to fairly dim, but on a good moonless night at the observatory, all can be seen.

 

We Need Funding

   The observatory is very thankful for the generosity of the Chico community.  In order to maintain the building and our equipment, we need public support.  Several improvements are happening soon, including upholstering the benches, replacing the observatory piers, and installing metal plates around the benches.

    We are also trying to get enough funding for the world's first outdoor planetarium.  This lowered seating pit, already approved by the Bidwell park commission, will allow visitors to relax and sit back while one of the volunteers gives a constellation and star tour.

    In addition to financial help, the observatory can always use a few extra hands.  If you can donate your time, energy, or anything else, let us know.  Click here to learn more about what the observatory could use.

Join the Observatory's Message Group

    The observatory has an email message group that you can be part of -- for free!  Through Yahoo!, the group can post messages.  The messages are sent to everyone on the list.  This is the easiest method for you to keep in touch with the observatory (except coming out every weekend).  You can post questions, and amateur astronomers from the community will reply.  Since this is an open group, we do ask that subject matter of messages directly relates to the observatory and/or science.  Join the observatory's message group.

 

Our Sun

Our Moon

Solar System

Deep Sky Objects

Gallery

 

                                      


Website last updated March 16,  2006.  Hosted by Anthony Watts, KMXI Radio.  Webmasters Tiara Norris and Brendan Diamond.