Monday, February 13, 2012 - 10:40am

The UGA department of physics and astronomy has been hosting a monthly open house at the UGA Observatory since at least 1998 (trying to confirm the actual beginning*). This tradition continues on Feb. 24 from 7:30 - 9 p.m. on the fourth floor of the physics building.

Jupiter, Venus and the crescent moon will be visible if the sky is clear. Visitors will be able to view the planets through the 24-inch telescope in the dome on top of the building as well as through several smaller telescopes on the roof. Faculty and students from the department will be on hand to point out sightings and answer questions.

Free parking is available immediately to the north and west of the building, which is located at the corner of Cedar Street and Sanford Drive. In the event that the sky is not clear, a faculty member will give a lecture in room 202, the main lecture hall in the physics building.

If you've never taken advantage of this, it's a fun, free date night and another great opportunity to bring the kids to campus - and perhaps both: these are not mutually exclusive.

Image: true-color simulated view of Jupiter composed of 4 images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on December 7, 2000. Jupiter's moon Europa is casting the shadow on the planet.

*Professor emeritus Scott Shaw points out that, "the telescope was installed in 1958-9 and presumably was used for classes and open houses. During the 1960s, public nights and school visits were done on a regular basis.  During the 1970s and part of the 1980s we had public nights on an irregular basis.  From the mid 80s until mid 90's the telescope was unusable.  A full scale overhaul brought it back to life and in 1997 we began once-a-month public night during the academic year."

Now we know.