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BERKELEY SPRINGS – The Morgan County Observatory’s stargazing parties always leave astronomy fans starstruck, but experts say this week’s show will be especially spectacular.

During the free party that starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the observatory outside of Berkeley Springs, those looking into the darkening sky will get to see Venus and Jupiter almost side by side.

Kevin Boles will oversee Friday’s free stargazing party at the Morgan County Observatory outside of Berkeley Springs. The alignment of Venus and Jupiter this week will deliver one of the best displays in years. For details, go to www.nitesky.org.

The moon will be in close alignment with the two planets, too, making the display even more special.

At the star parties at the Morgan County Observatory, located on the grounds of Greenwood Elementary School off U.S. 522 about nine miles outside of downtown Berkeley Springs, the fun typically includes a film, refreshments and hands-on astronomy activities. Organizers say the parties are ideal for all ages.

Even without the aid of Morgan County Observatory’s three-ton Cassegrain telescope, this week’s Venus-Jupiter show will be visible to stargazers.

According to a NASA news release on the planetary conjunction, amateurs will be able to see the planets’ passing in the night sky. The peak viewing time will be Thursday evening when the two planets will appear with a separation of just 3 degrees, NASA officials say.

The ideal time to view the alignment with the naked eye comes in the early evening just after sunset, NASA officials say, and anyone will be able to view the planetary conjunction through Sunday evening.

In Berkeley Springs, other spring star parties are set this spring for 7:30 p.m. on March 23; at 8 p.m. on April 13 and 20; and 8:30 p.m. on May 11 and 18. For details on the star party or other events at the Morgan County Observatory, call 304-258-1013 or visit www.nitesky.org.

– Spirit staff reports

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