Public Astronomy Observations
The SIU Carbondale Physics Department hosts free public observations the 3rd Sunday of each month during the fall and spring semesters. Observations start one hour after sunset and going for one and a half hours. Observations are at the observation deck on top of the Neckers building as well as the observation area at the SIU Farms Dark Site. We typically observe bright sky objects such as the Moon, major planets, star clusters, nebula and some deep sky objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy. All observations are weather dependent and space limited. The Neckers observation deck is not handicap accessible, however we can arrange for telescopes to be setup at ground level for individuals not able to take stairs to the observation deck. If you have a large group or other special needs, please contact the event coordinator to let them know in advance. Children accompanied by adults are welcome. For up to the minute event info and online discussion, see the Physics department Facebook event info page:
Observation Schedule 2019
Fall 2019 - Public Observations at Neckers
Sunday, September 15, 8-9:30pm
Free public astronomy observation hosted by the SIU Carbondale Physics Department and the Astronomical Association of Southern Illinois at the Neckers observation deck. Telescopes are provided. Children accompanied by adults are welcome. Visible this evening: Jupiter, Saturn, M57, M13.
Sunday, October 20, 7-8:30pm
Free public astronomy observation hosted by the SIU Carbondale Physics Department and the Astronomical Association of Southern Illinois at the Neckers observation deck. Telescopes are provided. Children accompanied by adults are welcome. Visible this evening: Saturn, M57, M13, M31.
Monday, November 11, 6am - 12pm
Special Event: 2019 Transit of Mercury
The Neckers building Astronomy Observation Deck will be open to visitors early on Veteran's Day, 2019 for the Mercury Transit. The transit starts just after sunrise and will continue until 12:04pm CST with a total duration of approximately 5 hours and 29 minutes. Due to the small apparent size of Mercury, it will appear as a tiny dot on the Sun moving slowly from left to right.
Amateur astronomers taking part in the Citizen ToM (Transit of Mercury) Project will be taking data (images) on the transit from the roof of Neckers as well as several other locations where the transit is visible. The project led by, Zack Stockbridge, is taking data across the U.S. using the telescope network established by the Citizen CATE Experiment that observed the 2017 total solar eclipse. The data will be used by students to recalculate the average distance to the Sun (AU). Visitors are welcome to observe the transit and the data collection as well as view the progress of the transit through solar scopes on the observation deck or bring their own observation / photography equipment.
The table below shows transit data for Carbondale, Illinois. The transit starts just a few minutes after sunrise and will be first visible about 6:50am from the Astronomy Observation Deck on the roof of Neckers. Mid transit occurs at 9:19am local time. The transit ends at 12:04pm. Questions about the observation should be directed to Bob Baer at 618-453-2729, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, November 17, 6-7:30pm
Free public astronomy observation hosted by the SIU Carbondale Physics Department and the Astronomical Association of Southern Illinois at the Neckers observation deck. Telescopes are provided. Children accompanied by adults are welcome. Visible this evening: Saturn, M57, M13, M31. The Leonids meteor shower will peak this evening, and lasts from Nov 6 thru Nov 30. Meteors are produced by dust grains left behind by comet Temel-Tuttle discovered in 1865. Best viewing after midnight from a dark location, but we may see a few of the Leonids at this evening's observation.
Alternate / Special Observations
Campus and community groups can arrange special observation on campus, or we can bring telescopes to you. To make arrangements, contact Bob Baer at 618-453-2729, email@example.com.
Observation Deck and Telescopes
The observation deck is 624 square feet in size. It is built out of 2" thick rubber matting for vibration isolation. The primary telescope is a 14" Meade LX600. This computer guided telescope is used for all observation events as well as the lab portion of PHYS 103 (Astronomy). Several additional scopes are setup for observations as needed including Celestron 8" SCTs, a Coronado SolarMax II, and a Stellarvue SV105 Raptor (105mm refractor).
Stellarvue SV105 Raptor
What Can You See?
The most spectacular viewing is of the Moon and major planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mars. On clear nights, you can easily see the rings of Saturn and detailed striations on Jupiter. Brighter objects such as the Great Orion Nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy and several clusters are also visible visually.
Dimmer deep sky objects are typically only visible during evenings with low humidity and not much cloud cover. On select night, deep sky cameras are utilized to display images of objects otherwise not visible though visual observations.
Previous Event Photos
Mars Opposition Star Party 2018. Star party at the SIU Farms for the Mars Opposition. See photos of the event on Bob Baer's Flickr photo stream.
Eclipse 2017 at SIU Carbondale. Southern Illinois University Carbondale hosted 30,000+ visitors to campus August 18 - 21, 2017 for four days of eclipse themed events capped off by Eclipse Day at Saluki Stadium. If you missed this, you'll want to mark your calendars for the next total solar eclipse to pass through Carbondale on April 8, 2024. Check out the photos at: eclipse.siu.edu
June 5, 4:00pm - 10:30 pm. Special daytime solar observation - Transit of Venus. If you missed the transit, you can see photos of the event here. Special thanks to the Astronomical Association of Southern Illinois as well as all the people who turned out and helped out on the day of the event.