March 14: '2012: Year of the Planets' Open House Night in Astronomy

ERIE, Pa. -- This year will be a very good year for amateur astronomers, so much so that Darren Williams, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, will offer a preview of its unique viewing opportunities at his next Open House Night in Astronomy.

“2012: Year of the Planets” will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 14, in Room 101 of the Otto Behrend Science Building. The nontechnical presentation is free and open to the public and will be followed by astronomical viewing from the college’s Mehalso Observatory, weather permitting.

“The winter sky in 2012 is packed with bright planets,” Williams said. “Venus and Jupiter make a spectacular pair in the western sky after sunset and are followed by Mars and Saturn, which rise in the east a few hours later. Both Mars and Saturn appear unusually bright this spring because they happen to be nearest the Earth in their orbits.”

In addition to the spring planetary palette, Williams said, Venus will pass directly in front of the sun in early June, marking a rare alignment that will not be repeated until 2117.

Open House Nights in Astronomy are an outreach program of the School of Science at Penn State Behrend intended for ages 8 and up. For additional information, contact the school at 814-898-6105.

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Last Updated February 20, 2012