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Steve Chaplin
University Communications

Last modified: Thursday, March 18, 2010

Focus on Mars as historic IU observatory begins weekly open house season

March 18, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University's historic Kirkwood Observatory begins its annual season of free stargazing open houses for the public on Wednesday (March 24) with an evening that literally focuses on Mars, a planet that will be appearing high in the southeast skies in the constellation Cancer the Crab as twilight fades during the month.

Kirkwood Observatory

Indiana University's historic Kirkwood Observatory will begin its annual series of weekly open houses March 24.

Print-Quality Photo

Guests will have the opportunity to view Mars through an observatory telescope, weather permitting, and IU astronomers will also have 3D Mars images on display, information available about Mars missions and be able to show visitors what it is like to drive the Mars rovers.

Due to Daylight Saving Time in Indiana, the sky will not be dark enough for observing with the telescope until late in the evening so viewing times will run from 9 to 11 p.m., the earliest possible to still have the sky dark enough to view with the Kirkwood telescope.

In addition to viewing Mars, Saturn will rise in the east at sunset, appear highest in the south around midnight and set in the west at dawn. Saturn will be easily visible almost all night during March as it crosses the southern sky, glowing bright yellow among the stars of the constellation Virgo.

Venus will shine low in the west as the evening sky darkens during March, getting a little higher each night while its brightness remains about the same all month.

Located just northeast of the corner of Fourth Street and Indiana Avenue at the wooded edge of campus, the observatory will remain open to the public for night sky viewing each Wednesday evening through November. The observatory, which was built in 1900, along with Kirkwood Avenue and Kirkwood Hall are all named for Daniel Kirkwood, the renowned astronomer who spent more than 30 years at IU before his death in 1895.

For future updates on viewing schedules and weather closings at the observatory, visit the link at or call the observatory hotline at 812-855-7736. To receive a monthly announcement about Kirkwood Observatory events, subscribe to the observatory's Astronomy List Server by sending an e-mail to Group showings are also available by contacting the IU Astronomy Department at 812-855-6911 or by sending an email to

For more information please contact Steve Chaplin, University Communications, at 812-856-1896 or