Stargazers meeting to include telescope clinic, planetary nebula program

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By Joan Mieritz
Special to The PREVIEW
The San Juan Stargazers will hold their regular meeting on Thursday, March 22, in the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center conference room, located at 105 Hot Springs Blvd.
We will meet from 7 to 8:30 p.m. You will be able to warm up with hot coffee, cocoa, tea or apple cider and a treat. If the roads are unsafe, we will cancel the meeting and postpone the program. If that happens, look for an email blast or call 731-0186.
Telescope clinics
Telescope clinics are valuable considering all the wonderful telescopes sitting unused and gathering dust in the closets of Archuleta County.
We are doing our clinics differently this year. Instead of having one or two that take up our entire meeting, we will have several shorter opportunities starting at 6 p.m., before our regular meetings.
We are asking that you call 731-0676 (Jerry) to reserve a “telescope expert” no later than March 21, (the day before the meeting). Your expert will then be waiting for you at 6 p.m. It is amazing how our telescope experts can quickly analyze problems, but if you need more time, we will figure out a way to get your scope working. If you attended a past clinic and didn’t follow through on things needing to be done, we are forgiving and warm-hearted people and you can have a second chance.
Meeting
Our regular meeting will begin about 7 p.m. with refreshments, introductions and information about upcoming events.
Our program will start with a written description and explanation of planetary nebula, which are the remains of a star after it has exploded and died. We will go into detail about the Cat’s Eye Nebula, which ranks as a top-10 Hubble image.
The remains of a dead star are important because, eventually, the matter contracts under its own gravity to form a new star.
We will have a video lesson given by university professor and astronomer Dr. David Meyer of Northwestern University including spectacular photos taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. He does an excellent job and the pictures from Hubble are breathtaking on the large screen. The program is educational, entertaining and often awe- and wonder-inspiring.
Chimney Rock programs
We are starting to gear up for next summer’s night sky programs at Chimney Rock — including nine star parties, which are well-attended by locals and visitors from around the world. We are incredibly fortunate to have so many opportunities to view the amazing night sky in the darkness of Chimney Rock National Monument.
Consider coming to our meeting to learn about becoming a volunteer.
We have five Chimney Rock Interpretive Association telescopes that need operators and you will be patiently trained on the job and thrilled by how quickly you learn.
Volunteering for night sky programs gives an added bonus in being able to use the telescopes after guests leave and receiving personal instruction. You don’t need to know a lot about astronomy, because we all have a lot to learn and it doesn’t take long to know more than most visitors. You will work with a wonderful team of people who welcome and treasure new people wanting to learn.
About the Stargazers
The San Juan Stargazers are part of the Astronomical League, which includes clubs from all over the U.S.
We have a website, www.SanJuanStargazers.com, as well as an email address, sjstargazers@gmail.com and a club phone number 731-0186, to help communicate with the public.
Out-of-town, amateur astronomers are always welcome, as well as anyone interested in learning more about astronomy. I hope to see you.