February 14, 2017 Comments Off on State park hosts a party under the stars Outdoor Events

State park hosts a party under the stars

So here comes the weekend and folks are looking for a little nightlife. There’s plenty of excitement after dark when the Sugar Creek Astronomical Society sets up their telescopes during astronomy nights at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area.

It’s a star party when people spread their blankets or unfold lawn chairs in the asphalt parking lot at the park visitor center. Outside lights are turned off for the best viewing of stars, planets, galaxies and all things celestial.

That was the scene as darkness fell on the Jan. 28 astronomy night. Eyes will gaze skyward at the astronomy night set for April 1.

The party kicks off around sunset. Astronomical society members give a presentation in the visitor center about objects in the night sky and how to best see them. The January program proved that a high-dollar telescope isn’t necessary to enjoy heavenly views. A decent pair of binoculars will do. My friend and co-worker, Kent Marts, with the astronomical society, explained to 40 or so of us in the room how to best use binoculars for star gazing. A local company even gave away a nice pair of binoculars as a door prize, which a youngster won.

Kent’s talk and questions wrapped up at twilight, when the crowd ventured outside. Families bring picnic baskets with treats, and toys for the kids to enjoy the celestial show. There was time to visit.

The magic happens when it’s finally dark. Bill Murphy of Bella Vista was one of the first members to have his telescope ready to go. He pointed it toward Venus and invited star gazers to have a look.

The sight was incredible. There was Venus, up close and looking like a half moon. Here was a planet 25 million miles away that looked close enough to touch.

Then there was Mars, close in the sky to Venus.

We amateur star gazers have a great time and so do the astronomers who share their knowledge and passion for astronomy. That’s why they do it, to share the love of what they love. How kind that this group gives up their Saturday night to bring the heavens to life.

Each member has their telescope trained on a different star or planet. What a treat to wander from telescope to telescope, looking at such far off beauty. Where else could one do this than at a Hobbs astronomy night? And it’s all free.

During winter the air is crisp and clear for prime viewing. Members of the Sugar Creek Astronomical Society stay around until the last person leaves, usually around 10 p.m.

Our January night under the stars was cut short when clouds rolled in. They came from the west as if nature pulled a gray blanket over our heads to say goodnight to another star party.

But the night wasn’t over. Lights in the lot were turned on and society members explained how a telescope works.

These astronomers are happy to answer the most basic questions like, why does the Milky Way appear as a swath of dust across the sky? Are all the stars we see in our own Milky Way galaxy? What is the closest star to earth. Why does Saturn have rings?

For answers, come to the next astronomy night on April 1.

Sports on 02/14/2017