Highland Road Park Observatory


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.

Mercury and Venus each get two two-hour sessions due to their descending with the Sun and therefore the added difficulty of seeing them in a telescope.

Mars can be seen brilliantly during the Closest Approach in April.

For each of the gas giants, we reserve the Moonless Saturday during which each appears highest in the sky during our public hours.

Jupiter: 22 February, 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
The king of the planets (this night in the constellation Gemini) 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.

Mars: 14 April, 8:00 pm to 12:00 am
This is the one night many Marsophiles crave and anticipate. The Closest Approach only happens every other year. Will you be outside to see it? Will you join us for this celebration of all things Mars? On this night Mars shine brilliantly at -1.4 magnitude in the constellation Virgo. Both the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Curiosity Rover are exploring the Red Planet now, and MAVEN is on its way!

Mercury: 3 May, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
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! For this first viewing session the swiftest planet will be in Aries.

Saturn: 19 July, 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm
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: 16 August, 5:15 pm to 7:15 pm
If you missed it in the spring, we’ll be opening early once again for Mercury. Leo will be the target constellation this time—Mercury doesn’t stay in any one constellation for long!

Neptune: 18 October, 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm
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: 22 November, 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
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.

Venus: 6 December, 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
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! As with Mercury, we’ll open early for this beauty—it’ll be in Ophiuchus.

Venus: 20 December, 2:15 pm to 4:15 pm
The second opportunity of the year to see the brightest planet in the sky awaits on this day. Venus will glow brilliantly in the constellation Sagittarius.

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Updated by Frederick J. Barnett on Thursday, February 20, 2014 3:00:41 PM.