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Featured Image

Comet Pan-STARRS

This is an image of Comet Pan-STARRS captured from the Lake Murray Dam on March 13th, 2013. Pan-STARRS is one of two comets that will be visible to the naked eye this year. Named after the telescope which discovered it in 2011, Pan-STARRS is making its first trip around the sun and based on orbital calculations, it won’t return for another 106,000 years.

Comets are large chucks of ice and dust which originate in the Oort cloud of the outer solar system. When comets approach the sun, solar radiation and wind vaporize the ices which form an atmosphere, or coma, around the comet and produce its tail, which always points away from the sun. A secondary dust tail may also form and point in a different direction and curve along the comet’s orbit. (Image credit: Alex Mowery)

To see more pictures, visit our
Image Gallery.

 

Welcome to the Melton Memorial Observatory

   

The Melton Observatory is currently open to the public on clear Monday nights beginning at 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm, weather permitting. Anyone is welcome to come by and observe the Moon, planets, stars, star clusters, and more through our telescopes free of charge! Check out the Sky Report to see what's currently visible in the night sky!

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for quick access to observing updates, recent images, current news, special events and more!

Information & Updates...

April 14-15: Lunar Eclipse and Mars close approach... Mars will come to within 57.4 million miles of our planet, making its closest approach to Earth since January 2008. All through the night, Mars will resemble a dazzling star shining with a steady fiery-colored tint; its brightness will match Sirius, the brightest of all the stars.

As a bonus, later that very same night (actually the early hours of april 15), North America will have a ringside seat to a total lunar eclipse when the full moon becomes transformed into a mottled reddish ball for 78 minutes as it is completely immersed n the shadow of the Earth. This total lunar eclipse will be the first one widely visible from North America in nearly 3.5 years. (Thanks Space.com)

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Public Observing... The next Public Observing night is scheduled for Monday, June 30, from 9:00pm to 11:00pm, weather permitting. Mars and Saturn will highlight this week's observing. Current weather forecast...

Weather Update.....

Note: The mirrors of our main telescope are currently in the process of being reinstalled and aligned. We will post an announcement once the telescope is back in operation. This maintenance will NOT affect Public Observing.


Midlands Astronomy Club... For over 30 years, the Midlands Astronomy Club, Inc. (MAC) has existed to further the general knowledge of Astronomy in the South Carolina area. Whether you are a beginner or a professional, if you are interested in astronomy, then consider joining! The club holds monthly meetings on the first Thursday of each month where guest speakers are brought in to discuss various astronomical topics. MAC also holds monthly star parties under some of the darkest skies in South Carolina and serves the community through various outreach programs.


The International Space Station orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes or so and flys over Columbia on a regular basis. The space station can be seen in the sky shortly before sunrise or shortly after sunset. The ISS appears as a very bright star-like object, and it moves very fast across the sky! Other orbiting satellites such as the Hubble Space Telescope can also be seen. See the links below for specific fly-over times...

Iridium flares can also be seen from time to time. These satellites periodically pass over at just the right angle that the sun's light reflects off the satellites' solar panels creating a short sudden brightening that can reach magnitudes of -8. That's nearly 600 times brighter than the brightest stars in the sky! Iridium Flares from Columbia, SC...

Note: Iridium flares are extremely location sensitive for observation. If you live outside the greater Columbia, SC area, it may be necessary for you to change the location on the Heavens-Above site for a more accurate listing of flares from your specific loaction.


Clear Sky Chart for Columbia, SC...

Clear Sky Chart for Melton Observatory
Click the chart for a detailed description of sky conditions.

 

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http://www.physics.sc.edu/~melton