Jupiter and its moons will highlight Washington Township stargazing event
Alle-Kiski residents will have a chance to get an up-close look at Jupiter this month during a stargazing event at Kunkle Park in Washington Township.
Weather permitting, adults and children will have a chance to see Jupiter's rings and four of its moons during the free event on Saturday, April 22 held by the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh.
"We don't really see its surface," said Terry Trees, member of the association who helps plan the viewings. "We see the tops of its clouds — that's what these belts and bands are."
The viewing party is the first of four to be held over the next several months.
Trees said the group has been holding stargazing parties at the park for about 10 years. The event starts around dusk and lasts for several hours.
"We'll stay there as long as the public stays," Trees said.
Members will set up their telescopes and guests can look through each one.
"People can just drift from one telescope to the other," Trees said. "The owners of the scopes will tell you about what you're looking at."
Trees said Kunkle Park is an ideal place to hold a stargazing event because it's relatively dark. Too much light from things like streetlights or businesses can cause what's called "light pollution" and make it hard to see the stars and planets.
"It's useless light," he said.
The Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh has been around since the 1920s and has about 300 members. The group holds meetings from September through May. The public can attend any meetings to listen to speakers the group brings in.
The association also runs two astronomical observatories — Nicholas E. Wagman Observatory in Allegheny County and Mingo Creek Park Observatory in Washington County — where people can attend events and viewing parties.
Trees said he also works with the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh to help educate people on astronomy at events throughout the year.
Eclipse coming this summer
Trees said residents will have a chance to see a rare event this summer during a total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.
The degree to which people will see the eclipse depends on their location. Trees said people in the Pittsburgh area will get to see it about 80 percent eclipsed.
He hopes to travel to Wyoming, which is in the path of seeing the total eclipse.
"The total eclipse of the sun means that the moon will pass exactly in front of it," he said.
"It's a very unique experience."
He said the association will likely open its observatories for the event.
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680 or email@example.com.