NEW PORT RICHEY — If a $9 movie ticket takes a bite out of the weekend budget, there's a free celestial show tonight at J.B. Starkey Wilderness Park.
Beginning at 9 p.m., the park will host the latest in a series of free stargazing events. Amateur astronomers will set up telescopes and other devices for free public viewing.
Event organizer Joe Colontonio said two features to look for this weekend will be the Messier 13, or Hercules Globular Cluster, and the Beehive Cluster. Both are vaguely visible to the naked eye but will be much more so on Saturday, with the help of telescopes and friendly, informed guides.
Traditional telescopes, Dobsonian telescopes and binoculars will be set up along the field and guests are encouraged to peek through each one.
"My advice would be to give each item a good hard look and see how much detail you can see," Colontonio said. "Also ask questions."
There were plenty of oohs and aahs at the close-up views of the moon and Saturn during the April stargazing.
"Wow, you've got to see this," one first-timer said to his friend. "I know what I'm doing tomorrow. We're getting a telescope."
The moon, a waning crescent, won't be visible on Saturday night, so viewing conditions will be ideal if the skies are clear.
Mark Hardies, amateur astronomer and physics professor at St. Petersburg College, said he's been attending the stargazing events for about six months.
"I am planning to take one of my larger scopes this time," he said. "I want to find the Ghost of Jupiter. If you look at it with low power, it almost looks like Jupiter. But if you look at a higher power, it has a hole in the middle."