MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ? On Friday, April 3, from 8-9:30 p.m., the Middlebury College Physics Department will hold an open house night at McCardell Bicentennial Hall’s rooftop observatory, weather permitting.  The event is being held in conjunction with a worldwide “100 Hours of Astronomy” celebration in recognition of the International Year of Astronomy. There is no set program; the public is invited to come anytime during these hours.  Admission is free.

According to Middlebury College Professor of Physics Frank Winkler, a live observatory webcast from the largest telescopes in the world will be shown on a large screen.  Astronomers at professional observatories around the world will show their telescope domes and control rooms, providing an insider’s view of these cutting-edge scientific facilities.

Winkler advises that some of the finest telescopic sights will be well-placed for viewing throughout the evening.  When the moon is in its first quarter, its cratered surface is highly visible, and Saturn, whose rings can currently be seen nearly edge-on, will be prominent as well.

The observatory dome houses a 24-inch computer-controlled telescope, and several smaller telescopes will be available on the roof deck.

Since cloud cover obscures visibility, the open house will take place only if the sky is reasonably clear.  If the weather appears uncertain, visitors may call the observatory at 443-2266 after 6 p.m. on April 3 for a status report.  The webcast will take place regardless of the weather.  

McCardell Bicentennial Hall is located on Bicentennial Way on the western edge of the Middlebury College campus.  Visitors should follow Route 125 West from the village center through the campus.  Bicentennial Way, which is the second right after the flashing light at the crest of the hill, leads to a parking lot and Bicentennial Hall.  Enter the building and take the elevators to the top floor, following the signs. 

More information on International Year of Astronomy events is available at http://astronomy2009.us/