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Go star gazing a Rotary observatory in Placerville

Folsom Lake Entertainer
By: Ken Larson, Folsom Lake Entertainer
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Jokingly, the volunteers at the Community Observatory say it is the “Cheapest Date in El Dorado County.” Get a cup of coffee and enjoy an evening under the stars. The Cameron Park Rotary Club Community Observatory, located at Folsom Lake College, El Dorado Center at 6699 Campus Drive in Placerville, was completed in 2006 in celebration of Rotary International’s 100th anniversary. The observatory is free to all visitors. Jason Brand is a volunteer docent who has a passion for astronomy. He said he is willing to donate his time and knowledge to makes sure your observatory experience is educational and rewarding. The docents are the guides to the universe and a source of interesting information about cosmic events, deep space objects, stars, planets and the observatory facility and telescopes. Brand demonstrated how to use the equipment, including the G. Arthur Cort Sky Theater, high power binoculars, as well as two large-diameter pier mounted telescopes that offer excellent viewing of celestial phenomena. On the first Friday night of February, we had up-close looks at Jupiter, Venus and four moons. We also were able to see Orion, (the Hunter) and observe the dust from the stars on and near his sword. The light we observed was actually many light years away so at the speed of light, the light we observed on Feb. 3, 2012, actually left at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire. We also were able to see the seven sisters by Neptune. A new 17-inch telescope donated by Aerojet just arrived and was installed in February. This will allow additional research projects. The Observatory is open free to the public Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the winter months and 8:30 to 10 p.m. in the summer. School groups and non-school groups for students ranging from kindergarten through high school can schedule special field trips to the observatory. According to Brant, anytime of the year is a good time to visit, however you should plan a visit on a clear night. For more information, call (530) 344-5707 or visit communityobservatory.com.