Have a favorite planet? HRPO personnel set aside nights every year to focus on the planets in our Solar System so you and your family, friends and co-workers can get an “up close” view of the terrestrial or gas giant that’s number one on your list. If possible, see all of them! There’s never any out-of-pocket expense for looking through Highland Road Park Observatory’s telescopes.
For 2020 the gas giant oppositions are traffic-jammed into a four-month period. Mars♂ puts on a fantastic exhibition every two years—and this is one of those years! Venus♀ has a sole evening elongation during calendar year 2020, while Mercury☿ has three.
Mercury☿ and Venus♀ will be viewed at Burbank (it goes down with the Sun☉) for ninety minutes per elongation. The gas giants each receive the customary two hours each.
Monday 10 February, 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm CST [in Aquarius♒; mag -0.4]
Wednesday 3 June, 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm CDT [in Gemini♊; mag 0.5]
Thursday 1 October, 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm CDT [in Virgo♍; mag 0.0]
at the Burbank Soccer Complex
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 eastern elongations of Mercury☿ allow viewing of the planet while it is its farthest in angular separation from the Sun☉. Mercury☿ will dip down toward the horizon as personnel train a variety of equipment on it for patrons.
Tuesday 24 March, 9:00 pm to 10:30 pm CDT [in Aquarius♒; mag -4.3]
at the Burbank Soccer Complex
How beautiful and Hellish at once! The brightest natural night object (not counting Earth♁’s Moon) will shine brilliantly as it sets. The eastern elongations of Venus♀ allows viewing of the planet while it is its farthest in angular separation from the Sun☉. Compare the planet’s brightness with that of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, which will be up as well (along with the Pleiades).
Monday 13 July, 9:45 pm to 11:45 pm CDT [mag -2.7]
The king of the planets is always a stunning sight. On this date it will be in the constellation Sagittarius♐. Its four Galilean moons—Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto—will be seen easily seen as well. In fact, Io and Ganymede will actually switch positions right before closing time. The Juno spacecraft gathered a lot of data. Will manned spacecraft ever orbit or visit Jupiter♃? There will be no viewing at HRPO on Friday 10 July.
Monday 20 July, 9:45 pm to 11:45 pm CDT [mag 0.1]
The spacecraft Cassini has left an amazing legacy of images and data. However, there’s no substituting the light from Saturn♄’s clouds and rings entering a telescope and then your pupil. When lucky, you can glimpse its largest moon Titan! Right now Saturn♄ is in the constellation Sagittarius♐. There will be no viewing at HRPO on Friday 17 July.
Friday 11 September, 8:45 pm to 10:45 pm CDT [mag 7.8]
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♒; it doesn’t leave that constellation until 2023! There will be no lecture at HRPO on this night. Telescopes are required to see Neptune♆!.
Tuesday 13 October, 8:00 pm to 12:00 am CDT [mag -2.6]
The last Great Opposition for fifteen years is coming! A close pass by the Red Planet will yield good view of the area called Syrtis Major and possibly a polar ice cap! There will be no viewing at HRPO on Friday 16 October.
Friday 30 October, 7:45 pm to 9:45 pm CDT [mag 5.6]
It’s the tiltiest planet, far away, but its distinctive blue-green tint showcased in Voyager 2 images is apparent. Neither Uranus♅ nor Neptune♆ has any spacecraft currently investigating them…for now. Uranus♅ will remain in its current home—Aries♈—through at least 2023. There will be no lecture at HRPO on this night. Binoculars are required to see Uranus♅!
Updated by Frederick J. Barnett on Wednesday, January 8, 2020, 09:31 AM.