Austin College’s Adams Observatory will open its doors to the community for a Star Party on Friday, inviting visitors to explore the universe through the largest research telescope in North Texas. The come-and-go event, which is free to attend, begins at 9:30 p.m. and continues until 11 p.m. at the school’s IDEA Center, though advance registration is requested at

The evening will feature views of the planets Mars and Saturn, along with other delights of the night sky.

“This is a special time to view Mars and Saturn,” David Baker, Physics Department chair and director of Adams Observatory, said in a press release on the event. “Earlier this summer, these planets passed relatively close to Earth — Mars was closer to Earth than it will be for another 17 years. Both planets still shine brightly in the night sky, and the views are magical through the Adams Observatory telescope.”

The IDEA Center is located at 1108 E. Richards Street, and parking is available nearby. Visitors should meet outside the main entrance of the IDEA Center, and guests will be taken to Adams Observatory in small groups on a first-come, first-served basis. Additional smaller telescopes will be available on the roof and lawn for stargazing. Students and faculty will be on hand to assist and provide details about the night’s featured objects. Should weather conditions require a cancellation, an announcement will be posted that day on the Austin College website, and registrants will be notified by email.

“At this event, we get to share our enthusiasm, and our telescopes, with the community,” David Whelan, assistant professor of physics, said. “Come join us to experience the vastness of space. There is no better way to appreciate our place in the universe than sharing it with other space enthusiasts.”

Austin College is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under its original name and charter.