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Thursday, 04 August 2011 14:22

Perseid viewing scheduled at Big Sky Observatory

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By Susan Quinlan
Southern Alberta
Stargazers throughout North America are likely familiar with the Perseid meteor shower, an annual event that NASA claims has been observed for at least 2,000 years. Considered the best meteor shower of the year, with its near steady light show of melting bits of ice and dust, the meteor shower can be viewed from a relatively new observatory at mid point between Lethbridge and Calgary.

“Come out to the Big Sky Observatory at 8:30 p.m. August 13 and enjoy the annual Perseid Meteor Shower,” said James Durbano, president of the Big Sky Observatory Society.

In addition to viewing the Perseid’s, Durbano said visitors will have an opportunity to look through the large observatory telescope and view Saturn and Titan, the Ring Nebula (M57), and the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules (M13).

“You can also explore the moon through the telescope and even ‘shoot the moon’ if you bring a camera.”

According to NASA’s website, the Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years.

Each year in August, the earth passes through a cloud of comet Swift Tuttle's debris and these bits of ice and dust burn up in the earth’s atmosphere creating one of the best meteor showers of the year. The meteors radiate from the direction of the constellation Perseus.

The Big Sky Observatory is owned and operated by the Big Sky Astronomical Society and is situated on land leased from Alberta Environment.

The observatory is based on a modified SkyShed design and is 12-feet wide and 16-feet long. It houses an 11" Celestron (C11) Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, donated to the society by Dr. Karl Ivarson.

In addition to viewing the Perseids, those interested in planning well ahead for the ‘end of the world’ may want to jot the following event down on their 2012 calendars.

On Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, Big Sky Observatory will host an End of the World Star Party from 8 p.m. to 11:59 p.m.

“Bring your Y2K survival gear and come join us, as the Ancient Mayan Calendar comes to an end. We will be observing the waxing gibbous moon, Jupiter and its four large moons and the Orion Nebula. We will also be keeping an eye out for Planet X, Nibiru, comets and asteroids, since all of these objects may collide with the earth on that evening, according to doomsday theorists.

“In addition, we will be looking for UFOs full of aliens who plan to abduct us, enslave us, and then annihilate our planet,” Durbano said, tongue in cheek.

Big Sky Observatory is located adjacent to the Twin Valley Dam on Highway 529 midway between Highways 2 and 23. The GPS co-ordinates for the observatory are 50° 13' 48" (50.23°) north and 113° 24' 00" (113.40°) west.

To learn more, visit the Big Sky website at: or the Facebook page:

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