Don’t miss Astronomy Day this Saturday, Oct. 20 at the George Observatory

Spend your Saturday under the stars at the George Observatory‘s annual Astronomy Day!

This family-friendly event is free with park admission to beautiful Brazos Bend State Park ($7, free for kids 12 and under), and goes from 3 p.m. all the way until 10 p.m., when the night sky comes alive.

George ObservatoryDozens of telescopes — including the George’s large domed research telescopes — will be available to the public for viewing star clusters, distant planets and galaxies.

Among the activities offered are simulated space missions aboard our Challenger Center (the first such historic center in the nation), astronomy presentations, children’s crafts, a guided tour of the constellations on our observatory deck, and more.

This fabulous event only comes once a year, so don’t miss it! Meet the dozens of local astronomy clubs and NASA organizations that come together to organize Astronomy Day and have a dazzling day (and night!) under the stars.

Seeing Stars with James Wooten: October 2012

Mars remains an evening object. It is low in the southwest at dusk.

Jupiter is high in the morning sky this month. Look high in the south/southwest at dawn for the object, which outshines all stars in that direction. Jupiter is also becoming a late evening object; it rises by 10:40 p.m. on October 1st and by 8:40 p.m. on the 31st.

Seeing Stars with James WootenVenus remains high in the east at dawn, continuing a spectacular morning apparition.

Saturn drops into the glare of the setting Sun this month, and is thus out of sight.  On October 25, Saturn is in line with the Sun, or at conjunction.

Antares, brightest star of Scorpius, the Scorpion, sets in the southwest during twilight, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to its upper left. Meanwhile, the Summer Triangle is virtually overhead. As the stars of summer shift to the west, those of autumn fill the eastern sky.   Watch the Great Square of Pegasus rise in the east. Note that we look towards the center of our galaxy when we face between Scorpius and Sagittarius. When facing the Great Square, or especially south and east of that, we face out of the plane of our galaxy, a direction where there are fewer bright stars. That’s why the large expanse of sky rising under Pegasus seems devoid of bright stars.

For this reason, ancient Babylonians designated this broad area of sky as the ‘Celestial Sea’, and filled it with watery constellations. The only bright star in this whole expanse of our sky is Fomalhaut in the southeast, which marks the mouth of the Southern Fish.  Between the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius and Jupiter (in Taurus, the Bull), are dim zodiacal constellations including Capricornus, the Sea Goat; Aquarius, the Water Carrier; and Pisces, the Fish. The giant sea monster Cetus rises under Pisces.

Moon Phases in October 2012:

Last Quarter                  October 8, 2:33 am
New                               October 15, 7:02 am
1st Quarter                    October 21, 10:33 pm
Full                                 October 29, 2:49 pm

Saturday, October 20, is our annual Astronomy Day at George Observatory, which lasts from 3 to 10 p.m. at our observatory in Brazos Bend State Park. Click here for a full list of activities.

On most clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory, you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer. If you’re there, listen for my announcement.

To enjoy the stars in any weather from the comfort of the HMNS Planetarium, click here for a full schedule.

Would you like email updates on current events in the sky, at the planetarium, and at the George Observatory?  If so, send an email to astroinfo@hmns.org.

Family Space Day is Sept. 15 — one of only two left in 2012!

Got big plans this weekend? We’re here to help as always. Now that we’ve got your Friday night covered, we think you should head south on Saturday toward Brazos Bend for a day of family fun at the George ObservatoryFamily Space Day!

For the duration of Family Space Day, the Challenger Learning Center will be open for individual children and adults to learn the importance of teamwork in a simulated mission to space.

Challenger Learning Center

In 1988, the Houston Museum of Natural Science was the first organization in the nation to establish a learning center in memory of the astronauts who died aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Since then we’ve taught more than 100,000 student astronauts the value of working as a team to accomplish a shared goal.

Be an astronaut for a day as you and your child are assigned jobs aboard the Space Station Observer and work in tandem to solve real-world problems. NASA volunteers will be running the missions and interacting with participants as they experience real astronaut training.

The Challenger Learning Center is usually only open to groups, so don’t miss this rare chance to complete a mission as an individual or as a family.

Missions will run this Saturday, Sept. 15 at 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Please note that missions are suited for children 7 years of age and older. Kids 7-9 must have a paid adult chaperone participate, and a minimum of 10 participants is required for each mission. (Refunds will be issued if the minimum is not met.)

Stay after your mission and see space from the other side during stargazing on the observation deck. Tickets to access the George Observatory telescopes go on sale at 5 p.m. for $5, weather permitting.

For more information on Family Space Day and the George Observatory, including mission times and rules, click here!

Watch a video of all the fun at Family Space day below!

Up for a challenge? Join us at the George Observatory on Saturday for Rocket Day, get special access to simulated space flight!

Attendees at The George Observatory’s Rocket Day this Saturday morning will have more than water rockets to show for it.

After a morning of learning about rockets and how they work, kids will build their own water rockets and launch them with the help of adult volunteers.

Afterwards, children and their parents can enter The Challenger Center, board the S.S. Observer and embark on a mission to the Moon, participating in real astronaut training and learning how problem-solving can make or break any mission.

Challenger Learning Center

Our simulated space flights are usually reserved for large groups, so Rocket Day represents a rare chance to enjoy simulated space flight for individuals! The mission is most appropriate for ages 7 and up; children 7 to 9 will need adult supervision.

Once you’re done exploring outer space, why not explore Brazos Bend State Park? With six lakes, multiple hiking trails and a fantastic hands-on nature center there is plenty to do and see.

In fact, stay all day and join us Saturday night for the Perseid Meteor Shower Party! Meteors will become visible around 10 p.m. and will become more frequent as dawn approaches. Snacks, blankets and sleeping babes are welcome.

To learn more about Rocket Day and our simulated space missions, please call 281-242-3055 or visit our website.

What: Rocket Day at the George Observatory
When: Saturday, August 11; 10 a.m. to noon
Where: The George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park. Please note that regular park entrance fees apply: $7 per person, free for kids 12 and under.
How much: $20 per child, free for adults