[copperpress-advertserve-ad zone="3"]
 December 3, 1999

Star gazing, astrophotography a unique winter eve’s activity

Starry, starry night? As cool winter nights provide clear skies, local stargazers can view the heavens above Boulder County more closely with the help of area observatories and astronomy clubs.

The telescopes at Sommers-Bausch Observatory on the CU-Boulder campus are a great resource for the general public interested in viewing some of the larger celestial bodies that dot the night skies.

“The computer-controlled telescopes make it really easy to zip around the sky,´ said Keith Gleason, observatory manager at CU. “While we can’t view some of the fainter galaxies because of light pollution, bigger objects like Jupiter and Saturn will knock your socks off. The brighter celestial showpieces, like the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, are visible on pretty much any night from our observatory.”

The University of Colorado observatory staff, which includes graduate students in astronomy, are on hand every Friday night during the school year to answer questions and guide the 16-inch and 18-inch computer-driven Cassegrain-style telescopes as they scan the heavens for astronomical delights.

In addition to its two large telescopes, the observatory also provides binoculars, a star wheel and a few smaller telescopes during the free Friday night open houses. The observatory is located on top of the Hill just east of the Fiske Planetarium on Regent Drive. While it is not required that people attend the presentations at Fiske, star show audiences are invited to the observatory after the show to see the real thing, weather permitting.

The Web site www.colorado.edu/fiske has more details about specific star shows and a link to the Sommers-Bausch observatory’s site, which includes a “what’s happening this month” update of astronomical events. Gleason said the size of the crowd, the temperature and the level of people’s enthusiasm can limit Friday night stargazing.

“We try to accommodate people’s curiosity,” he said. “But if it’s really cold, we try to make things short and sweet.”

If you’re driving from far away for an evening of astronomy, Gleason warns against “putting all your eggs in one basket” and suggests attending the star shows at Fiske in addition to visiting the observatory, as clouds can move in quickly and block out the sky.

Area clubs

Several clubs on the Front Range also provide outlets for astronomy enthusiasts. Annual memberships are as low as $20 and include talks by astronomy experts, opportunities for children to get involved in stargazing and occasional star parties, where members focus on specific heavenly events.

The Longmont Astronomical Society meets every third Thursday of the month, except December, at the Longmont Christian School (basement level) at 550 N. Coffman Street in Longmont. This is one block west of Main Street (U.S. 287) and between 5th and 6th streets. Meetings are open to the public and begin at 7 p.m.

Topics at the meetings include such things as making your own telescope, deep-sky observing, grinding your own optics, equipment demonstration and astro-photography. Both club members and special guests, who are professionals in their individual fields, present these subjects. The club’s Web site is http://laps.fsl.noaa.gov/frd-bin/albers_las.homepage.cgi.

The Northern Colorado Astronomical Society in Fort Collins is another very active star group and sponsors a variety of fun events.

“We take field trips to the Little Thompson Observatory in Berthoud for good viewing,´ said Dr. Dan Laszlo, the club’s newsletter editor. “Little Thompson is far away enough from city lights that gazing is enhanced by the darkness. And it’s a great facility.”

Laszlo said the observatory in Berthoud recently acquired a large computer-controlled telescope and opens its doors to the public once a month. The Little Thompson Observatory’s Web site is http://www.starkids.org.

The Northern Colorado Astronomical Society meets the first Thursday of every month at The Discovery Center, 703 East Prospect St. in Fort Collins, and hosts a variety of speakers on such topics as the next generation of telescopes and Leonid meteor showers. Club members set up several telescopes on viewing nights and focus on a variety of heavenly events, including moon gazing every Friday night closest to the first quarter moon. The club’s Web site is www.ncastro.org.

The Boulder Valley Astronomical Society can be reached by e-mailing its president Jake Bakeman at mailto:Jbakeman@indra.com.

Starry, starry night? As cool winter nights provide clear skies, local stargazers can view the heavens above Boulder County more closely with the help of area observatories and astronomy clubs.

The telescopes at Sommers-Bausch Observatory on the CU-Boulder campus are a great resource for the general public interested in viewing some of the larger celestial bodies that dot the night skies.

“The computer-controlled telescopes make it really easy to zip around the sky,´ said Keith Gleason, observatory manager at CU. “While we can’t view some of the fainter galaxies because of light pollution, bigger objects like Jupiter and Saturn will knock…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad zone="3"]

Related Content