Highland Road Park Observatory

2015 PLANET TIMES

Have a favorite planet? HRPO sets aside one Saturday annually for each planet in our Solar System so you and your family, friends and coworkers can get an “up close” view of the terrestrial or gas giant that’s #1 on your list. Or… try to see all of them! As usual, there’s never any out-of-pocket expense for looking through HRPO’s two large reflectors.

For 2015 our sibling planets are evenly distributed throughout the calendar year. [Mars, sadly, will not be available during HRPO’s 2015 viewing times.]

Jupiter
28 March, 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm CDT
4 April, 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm CDT
11 April, 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm CDT

The king of the planets (on these dates in the constellation Cancer) is always a delight, with the visible cloud bands and its four Galilean moons—Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto—easily seen as well. The Galileans are always in a different configuration from night to night. How many of them will be seen this night? The Juno spacecraft is making its way to Jupiter, and will arrive in the summer of 2016.

VENUS
30 May, 7:45 pm to 9:45 pm CDT
6 June, 7:45 pm to 9:45 pm CDT
13 June, 7:45 pm to 9:45 pm CDT
The Magellan spacecraft made the first global map of Venus’ surface. Earth and Venus are similar in size, mass and distance from the Sun. But—Venus has no oceans and temperatures hot enough to melt lead! During the May date Venus will be in Gemini, but it’ll cross over into Cancer for June viewing.

SATURN
11 July, 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm CDT
18 July, 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm CDT
25 July, 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm CDT

The spacecraft Cassini has been doing seemingly endless loops and swoops around Saturn and its moons, showing us things we’d never seen before. Well, from our vantage point on Earth, the angle of this planet’s majestic rings is widening by the month! This night Saturn is in the constellation Libra.

MERCURY
29 August, 5:15 pm to 7:15 pm CDT
5 September, 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm CDT
12 September, 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm CDT

The wonderful MESSENGER spacecraft spent over a year leisurely orbiting the closest planet to the Sun, gathering a wealth of images and data. We envy that craft, as Mercury is the most difficult planet to see—but we’ll try our best! The swiftest planet will be in Virgo.

NEPTUNE
17 October, 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm CDT
24 October, 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm CDT
31 October, 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm CDT

It’s the windiest planet—far away, but its distinctive blue tint is apparent. The Voyager 2 spacecraft provided an incredible amount of information. Visitors will be viewing the farthest “official” planet while it resides in the constellation Aquarius.

URANUS
21 November, 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm CST
28 November, 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm CST
5 December, 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm CST

It’s the tiltiest planet, far away, but its distinctive blue-green tint showcased in Voyager 2 images is apparent. Visitors will be viewing Uranus as it resides in the constellation Pisces. Neither Uranus nor Neptune has any spacecraft currently investigating them…for now.

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Updated by Frederick J. Barnett on Thursday, January 29, 2015 7:56:39 AM.