FLORENCE, S.C. – The Francis Marion University observatory will hold nine public viewing sessions during May that will offer visitors the chance to see a comet and other astronomical objects.
The observatory will be open May 5-8 and May 25-29 from 8:30 to 11 p.m. each night.
These observatory sessions are open to the public free of charge.
Beginning May 3, the Comet NEAT (C/2001 Q4) will be visible in the southwest sky at about 9:30 p.m. in the constellation Canis Major (the Big Dog). This comet will continue to rise higher in the evening sky through the month of May and will be visible to the naked eye, until it vanishes from view June 15th.
Currently in the early morning hours (around 5 a.m.) Comet LINEAR (C/2002 T7) can be found almost directly at due east under the Great Square of Pegasus. This comet is visible to the naked eye, but it is very low in the sky, and it will disappear from view after May 12th. Comet LINEAR will reappear around May 25 in the evening sky at sunset. It will remain low in the sky before disappearing again from view around June 6.
These loosely structured FMU viewing programs allow visitors to come and go as they please. If weather conditions block viewing, the sessions will be canceled. The public may call 843-661-1355 for recorded information about the prospect of a clear sky to allow the event to be held.
The FMU observatory is located beyond the outfield fence of the FMU Softball Field, south of the Smith University Center. Visitors can park in Lot D at the southern end of the campus and follow the walkway to the observatory.
Persons requiring special assistance to visit the observatory, or seeking more information, may call 843-661-1441. The observatory webpage is http://astro.fmarion.edu/observe/