NORTH NEWTON, KAN.- Mabee Observatory will be open to the public from 7 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13 and 14. The observatory is located on the fourth floor of Krehbiel Science Center at Bethel College, North Newton. The show's theme is "The Winter Sky." Viewers can expect to use the observatory's main, 16-inch telescope to see the moon, Saturn, the Orion Nebula and the Crab Nebula.
"Winter is perhaps the best time to view the nighttime sky since cold temperatures and low humidity produce a very steady atmosphere to view through," says observatory director Tracy Tuttle. Tuttle encourages visitors to dress in warm layers.
The waxing gibbous phase of the moon, according to Tuttle, will give guests an opportunity to observe most of the moon's surface, including lunar mountains, valleys and other features. The gibbous moon has more than half of its disc illuminated.
Although all of the giant gaseous planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune) have rings, Tuttle believes Saturn's are "nothing short of spectacular. To see these mighty rings with your own eyes is truly a treat."
The Orion Nebula is a region only 1,500 light-years from Earth where new stars are being born. It is a stellar nursery cloud of hydrogen gas and interstellar dust.
The Crab Nebula, a supernova explosion remnant, is 7,200 light years away from Earth. The explosion in 1054 A.D. was observed and recorded on Earth and was said to be bright enough to be seen during daylight hours.
Mabee Observatory, which opened this fall, has the latest model GPS (Global Positioning System) LX200, Equatorial Mount, Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope from Meade Corporation.
Admission is free and open to the public. The next viewing is planned for Jan. 3 and 4.