Patrick Wiggins, the well-informed Salt Lake astronomer from Hansen Planetarium, will lead two star parties in southern Utah this weekend.
The first, at Brian Head Resort near Cedar City, is planned for tonight; it is sponsored by the resort. On Sunday night Wiggins will lead a star party at Bryce Canyon National Park in a show sponsored by the planetarium.In both cases, powerful telescopes set up at high elevations in areas relatively free of light pollution promise to deliver a visual treat, assuming the weather is clear. The moon is nearly to its new stage, when it doesn't appear in the night sky. That means its light won't flood out the view of dim galaxies and nebulae.
Meanwhile, Saturn is shifting in orientation to Earth, and in a couple of months the famous rings will be seen edge-on - hard or impossible to see in most telescopes.
Star-gazers will meet in the lobby of the Brian Head Hotel at 9 tonight. An hourlong indoor slide show will cover such topics as the latest information about the impact in July of more than a score of cometary fragments on the planet Jupiter.
The outdoor star show won't be held if the weather is bad. If it does take place, participants should be prepared for chilly conditions. The site at the base of Brian Head Peak is at an altitude of 9,700 feet.
The cost of the Brian Head show is $5, with children under 12 free. For more information, call the town at (801) 677-2029.