Atop the mountainside at Frostburg Grows, stargazers will be blanketed by the night sky and meteor showers during a special Star Party on Wednesday, Aug. 12, co-hosted by the Frostburg State University Planetarium and Multimedia Learning Center and the Cumberland Astronomy Club.
The free Star Party will start at 9 p.m., when FSU faculty, students and astronomy club members will be on hand helping amateur stargazers explore the friendly skies.
“Most people at the Star Party will see things they’ve never seen before with the unaided eye,” said Dr. Jason Speights, associate director of the FSU Planetarium and MLC. “It opens up the universe for them seeing things that are out there and drives home that the universe is a big place.”
The secluded site is perfect for peering into deep space.
“It’s a great location because it’s shielded from a lot of the light pollution of Frostburg,” Speights said. “That means it’s a dark site, and we’ll be able to see a lot of faint objects easier.”
The Frostburg Grows: Grow It Local greenhouse complex is off New Georges Creek Road SW (Md. 36) in Frostburg, just south of the Interstate 68 interchange and the Park and Ride lot.
The family-friendly event is free and open to the public. Attendees can stay as long as they want and are encouraged to bring a comfortable chair and snacks. The party will be held weather permitting; schedule changes will be announced on www.frostburg.edu.
The FSU Planetarium will provide a 12-inch Newtonian reflector telescope that will allow viewers to see fainter objects like galaxies and nebulas, a 110-milimeter Orion refractor telescope that is perfect to see planets and moons and a powerful set of Orion BT100 binoculars that will allow the viewer to see star clusters and galaxies.
Star partiers who wish to bring their own telescopes are asked to arrive at 8:30 p.m. FSU faculty, students and astronomy club members will be available to assist those who want to set up their own telescopes for ideal viewing. No pets or alcohol are allowed at the site. No smoking or white light will be allowed near the telescopes. Red plastic and rubber bands will be provided for those who bring white light flashlights.
The Cumberland Astronomy Club is a partner with the FSU Planetarium and MLC, participating in stargazing sessions following select planetarium programs each month, and the Frostburg Grows Star Party is an extension of that partnership.
"Club members greatly enjoy sharing the night sky with the public and FSU’s Multimedia Learning Center," said club member and FSU Professor Emeritus of Physics and Engineering Steve Luzader.
The summer sky will allow attendees to see galactic objects within the Milky Way galaxy and perhaps even other galaxies in the universe, Speights said. “The galactic objects are mainly clusters of stars and different types of nebula,” he said.
The Star Party is also being held during the peak of the Perseids meteor shower.
“Although meteor showers are best viewed in the early morning hours, we might see a few stray Perseids,” Speights said.
Luzader said this year’s Perseids showers should be among the best to view because moonlight will not interfere with observing. He said experts predict the possibility of seeing as many as one meteor per minute.
Those interested in attending can also prime themselves by reading the August 2015 Sky Report, a monthly summary of sky events by Dr. Bob Doyle, director of the FSU Planetarium and MLC, and associate professor of physics. The column is available online at frostburg.edu/mlc/planetarium/sky-reports.
The FSU Planetarium also hosts free public shows. The next program is on Saturday, Aug. 22, at 8 p.m. in MLC, Room 186 of the Catherine R. Gira Center for Communications and Information Technology. The show, featuring a full-dome movie “Dynamic Earth,” lasts about 45 to 50 minutes. If weather permits, telescopes will be taken outside for viewing. No food, drinks or gum are allowed in the planetarium. Parking is recommended near the Performing Arts Center. No entry to the planetarium show is allowed after the show begins at 8 p.m.
FSU is committed to making all of its programs, services and activities accessible to persons with disabilities. To request accommodations through the ADA Compliance Office, call 301-687-4102 or use a Voice Relay Operator at 1-800-735-2258.