By Kysa Anderson Daniels
Photo by Bill Roa
DUNWOODY, Ga.—Perimeter College invites amateur astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts to attend a stargazing event at Georgia State University’s Dunwoody Observatory on a night with spectacular possibilities.
The first in a series of free astronomy viewings at the Observatory will be Friday, Jan. 31, from 8-10 p.m. at the university’s Dunwoody Campus. Those attending will be able to view planets, stars, a giant molecular cloud and – possibly – a meteor shower.
There also exists a slight chance that the highly anticipated transition to supernova of the star Betelgeuse could occur during the Jan. 31 event or one of the observatory’s later scheduled viewings.
Professional astronomers don’t know exactly when the aging and dimming Betelgeuse (pronounced Beetlejuice) will go supernova. But they say it could happen any day. David Yenerall, an astronomy lecturer at the university’s Perimeter College, is excited.
“It will supernova one day because it’s so massive – meaning that it will collapse and then explode,” Yenerall said.
According to a Jan. 23 article published at Forbes.com: “Whenever Betelgeuse finally does go supernova — and it could be tonight, next decade, or 100,000 years from now — it will become … visible to nearly all of Earth’s inhabitants.”
Even if Betelgeuse doesn’t emit a powerful flash and die on Jan. 31, Yenerall promises observatory attendees will have plenty to see, such as Venus, before it sets in the West, as well as the stars Sirius, Rigel and Procyon.
“And, we will view the giant molecular cloud M42, where new stars and planetary systems are forming” Yenerall added. “With luck we may see the Cancrid meteor shower.”
If skies aren’t clear for the Jan. 31 observation night, an alternate date is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 7. Two other public observation nights will be offered at the Georgia State University Observatory, 2101 Womack Road, Dunwoody, March 9 (alternate, March 13) and April 17 (alternate, April 24), from 8-10 p.m.
The Georgia State Observatory is a spinning dome with a retractable shutter. Observation night participants will have access to view the sky through a 14-inch telescope.