Observatory open for summer sky gazing

Observatory open for summer sky gazing
Friday night astronomy is a local favorite at the Palomar College observatory in San Marcos. Courtesy photo

 As summer gets under way at Palomar College, Scott Kardel and the staff of the college planetarium are reminding residents that Friday night astronomy is still going strong.

“Just like during the school year, we’re open on Friday nights for programs for the general public,” said Kardel, who teaches astronomy and often appears as a presenter at the planetarium. “The 7 p.m. show every Friday is called ‘The Sky Tonight,’ which changes as the seasons change, because it focuses on what you can see in the sky on a particular night.”

“Then we look at some of the mythology and often talk about what’s new in astronomy this week,” he said. “For example, last Friday, I talked about a new discovery of organic molecules on Mars, which is to say that the basic ingredients for life seem to be on Mars. So I took the audience to Mars, having a look at the planet while discussing these developments.”

The second show every Friday starts at 8:15 p.m. and pulls from a rotation of four films made especially for full-dome projection in planetariums.

“The new one is called ‘Faster Than Light,’ Kardel said, “and it looks at what kinds of technologies we could use to travel to distant stars — everything from science-fiction stuff like warp drives and antimatter to the history of travel.”

Between the first and second shows, visitors have time to peruse the gift shop or look through the telescopes that the planetarium staff set up on the patio by the box office.

“This summer, we’ve got bright planets to look at,” said Kardel. “In July, we’ll look at Saturn and then Mars coming into the sky.”

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