Utahns can take part in an international star party this weekend as telescopes across the globe tilt up to look at the stars and sun as part of the 100 Hours of Astronomy events.
The event, which runs from today through Sunday, is the cornerstone of the International Year of Astronomy, which marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei turning his telescope to the sky and documenting what he saw.
"A window was opened on the cosmos for people's imagination and curiosity," said Dave Bernson, president of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society. "Galileo provided the foundation for observational astronomy, which is something we still do today."
The society, along with Clark Planetarium, is holding star parties on Friday and Saturday night to help people familiarize themselves with the night sky.
Telescopes will be set up at about 8 each night, and amateur astronomers will be on hand to help guide viewers through the night sky. Those who want help learning how to operate their own telescopes are welcome to bring them along, Bernson said. Warm clothes are recommended, and the parties are free to attend.
However, the weather is not looking promising. Clouds likely will obscure most viewing on Friday night, when there's also a good chance of snow. Saturday likely will remain mostly cloudy across the valley until midnight, said lead forecaster Pete Wilensky of the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.
"If you had to pick one of those two nights, Saturday would be the better of the two," Wilensky said. "There's less threat of clouds, but it's not looking like it will be a clear night."
In case of bad or cloudy weather, the Clark Planetarium will offer free showings of its Night Vision program at 6:45 p.m.
Seth Jarvis, director of the planetarium, hopes people will take advantage of the events to learn more about the stars.
"Astronomy happens naturally any time you look up and observe the sky," Jarvis said. "Astronomy is humankind's first and most enduring science."
Bernson says astronomy has been a rewarding pursuit.
"I encourage people to enjoy the sky in the daytime and the nighttime," Bernson said. "It's beautiful and mysterious."
When » Dusk to 11 p.m.
Where » Harmon's in Midvale, 7755 S. 700 East.
This is the Place Heritage Park, 2601 Sunnyside Ave., Salt Lake City.
When » Dusk to 11 p.m.
Where » Stansbury Park Observatory Complex, about 30 miles west of Salt Lake City. Download directions at http://slas.us/maps/SPOCMAP.HTM.
For the entire year's schedule of upcoming star and sun parties hosted by the Salt Lake Astronomical Society, visit The Tribune's astronomy blog at http://blogs.sltrib.com/frontier.