Stargazers to discuss comets, visible and visited, at Jan. 22 meeting


By Joan Mieritz
Special to The PREVIEW

The San Juan Stargazers will meet on Thursday, Jan. 22, at the Pagosa Springs Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center at 7 p.m.

Comet Lovejoy has been visible with the naked eye at times since late December. We will learn what’s going on with our latest visitor from the distant Oort cloud and we will attempt to locate it for viewing.

Then, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft and lander, which completed a most unbelievable feat of setting down on a comet in November, will be updated.

Stop and think about that for a minute: a spacecraft landed on a comet which is 2.5 miles across and is hurling through space. Rosetta was launched in 2004 and has been on a 10-year, 4 billion-mile journey to meet up with the comet. The mission was accomplished by scientists from Europe, the U.S., Japan and the Soviet Union. When our government cut funds for space exploration, various groups around the world came together to work on space projects such as this. It is an amazing accomplishment.

On Saturday, Feb. 21, we will have our first winter Star Party with the 20-inch telescope. It should be spectacular. Saturday, Feb. 28, will be the backup date and we will have no regular meeting on Thursday night.

We have a member with a camper to share, so we can have regular “thaw breaks” with hot chocolate, cider and whatever else we need to make us feel warm. We cannot determine the exact location until we know how much snow is on the ground. If you want to attend, call the club number to make reservation. There is no charge. Everyone will be notified on Friday or Saturday when and where to meet.

The San Juan Stargazers are part of the Astronomical League, which includes clubs from all over the U.S. The club has a great website,, as well as an email address,, and a club phone number, 335-8286, to help communicate with the public.

Our activities are open to the public and to anyone interested in learning more about our wondrous universe. Hope to see you soon.