Barstow Community College is gearing up for the public viewing of the Orion Nebula at the BCC Observatory at 7:30 p.m. March 30.

The observatory houses a 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain Reflector Telescope on a permanent Equatorial mount, according to BCC officials. The magnification used varies between 100x and 1000x, depending on the object observed and the viewing conditions.

“The Great Orion Nebula is a magnificent cloud of gas and dust around 1,300 light years from Earth ... It is a nursery for new star formation and is the closest star forming region to Earth,” BCC astronomy Prof. Scott Bulkley said.

“The Orion Nebula also contains the Trapezium star cluster, a tight group of young massive stars that provide much of the nebula’s brightness.”

On March 30, the telescope will be focused on the space just below Orion’s Belt in the constellation of Orion. The public is invited to attend the free viewing, and “everyone will have a chance to look through the telescope,” Bulkley said, weather permitting.

“This is an event that we always look forward to, because we can interact with our neighbors in the community,” he said. “Barstow has always been interested in our local observatory.”

The College Observatory is located on Veterans Parkway behind the BCC campus. Parking is available on Veterans Parkway. People are urged to dress warmly since this is an outdoor event that will run from 7:30 p.m. until about 9 p.m.

For people interested in more astronomical adventures, BCC offers college level Astronomy classes.

There is an online class that starts on Monday (the last day to add the class is Friday). Then during the summer semester, online classes begin on June 5. Students who want to spend more time in the observatory can sign up for fall semester classes. The astronomy classes are held during the evening hours so even working adults can participate.

The astronomy (ASTR) classes offered at Barstow Community College are:

• ASTR 1 - INTRODUCTION TO ASTRONOMY: Covers the basic principles of astronomy, including motions of the Earth, time measurement, the solar system, stellar and galactic phenomena and cosmology, as well as star and constellation identification. (Offered online, or in the classroom.)

• ASTR 1L – OBSERVATIONAL ASTRONOMY: Is a laboratory course which examines the major principles of astronomy, and utilizes observations through the telescope to explore the planets and moons of the solar system, stars, nebulas, and galaxies. (Offered in the classroom/observatory.)

For more information about the BCC Observatory and the public viewing of the Orion Nebula, call Prof. Bulkley at 760-252-2411, ext. 7301.

For more information about the college and its programs, including the astronomy classes, visit the BCC website at www.barstow.edu.