Residents of Western Pennsylvania have a variety of opportunities to learn about the wonders of the night sky. They can attend a Friday or Saturday night observing session at Carnegie Science Center's rooftop Buhl Observatory if they want to look at the universe through a 16-inch telescope. Stargazers can also learn about the wonders of the night sky by attending one of the Star Parties offered by the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh.
The AAAP offers Star Parties free to the public at two local sites. You can attend one at the Nicholas E. Wagman Observatory in Deer Lakes Park, Frazer, or you can attend a party at the AAAP's Mingo Creek Park Observatory in Mingo Creek County Park, Washington County.
At an AAAP Star Party, members set up a wide variety of telescopes and offer visitors stunning views of many celestial objects. Depending upon what is in the night sky that evening, you can view galaxies, nebulas, star clusters and, of course, planets. Many visitors bring their own telescopes or observing equipment to take advantage of the viewing conditions at the sites. However, all you really need to bring is warm clothes and a folding lounge chair to avoid neck strain while you view the stars and planets with your eyes.
Club members will also answer questions about astronomy or help you set up and align your own telescope. They will even recommend the right telescope to buy.
The next scheduled Star Party at the Mingo Creek Park Observatory is July 20 and 21. The Wagman Observatory will host a Star Party on July 27 and 28. For more information on the AAAP, future Star Parties and directions, go to www.3ap.org.