Lipan Astronomy and Space Society (LASS) will host the International Year of Astronomy Public Star Party Friday at Optimist-Jaycee Park.

The amateur astronomy club will host public observations of the moon, Saturn and many other celestial objects through binoculars and telescopes from 8:30-11 p.m. 

“The highlights of the evening sky will be Saturn and the first quarter moon,” said Ben Hudgens, LASS member and former astronomy professor. “We will also be able to point out Scorpius, Virgo, Libra, the Big Dipper, or Ursa Major, and the North Star.”

The event is free for the public. People are encouraged to bring their own binoculars and telescopes to aid in observing the night sky.  However, several telescopes will be provided by LASS.

The astronomy club will be on hand to answer questions about the objects in the night sky. They will also be able to answer questions about operating a telescope or other equipment for those who wish to understand how to work their telescopes better.

“This is really popular among families, especially kids,” said Hudgens. “When a kid looks through a telescope for the first time and sees the stars, it really sticks with them.”

Seasonal star maps will be handed out to help identify the different constellations, planets and other objects.

“It’s really casual,” Hudgens said. “Sometimes we have people that will stay five or 10 minutes, while others will stay for hours. Just come and go as you want.”

If people are planning to stay for awhile, they are welcomed to bring a lawn chair and drinks. If the sky is partly cloudy, LASS will still host the event.  However, if the sky is overcast, then the event will be cancelled.

LASS is hosting the star party as an effort to promote public awareness about the International Year of Astronomy, as designated by the International Astronomical Union. While other years have been about theology and other sciences, the International Year of Astronomy has been planned for several years as an effort to educate the public about space. Schools from elementary and up and planetariums such as the one at Tarleton State University will also have special plans to place emphasis on the interest of astronomy and space this year.

“This event is an outreach to show folks in the Stephenville area that it doesn’t take much equipment to view the night sky,” said Hudgens. “Sometimes all it takes are binoculars or even just your eyesight.”

The year 2009 marks the 400th year since Galileo Galilee turned his telescope to the heavens. According to the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), June is the month of star clusters, featuring the Hercules Cluster. July will be featured as the month of black holes. ASP offers other educational information at their Web site, www.astrosociety.org.

LASS is a local group of amateur astronomy enthusiasts serving the Cross Timbers area. LASS holds monthly meetings for those interested in the night sky.  Membership is free. 

Jaycee Park is located at North Harbin and Northwest Loop in Stephenville.

For more information, contact Hudgens at 254-968-2881 or LASS founder James Addison at 254-646-2283. Check out the astronomy club’s Web site at www.lipanastronomy.org.