Lunar eclipse, Stargazers meeting, free Life At Chimney Rock coming this month

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By Joan Mieritz
San Juan Stargazers

Our first public Night Sky Program will be Friday, May 21. The gate opens at 7:15 p.m., with the program “Our Solar System” starting in the Chimney Rock amphitheater at 8 p.m. This is a perfect time for locals to come, no reservations needed, but there is a program fee. 

We will be completing our Night Sky programs this year with what we are calling “Tour of the Night Sky.” Haven’t you always wanted to look up at the sky and know exactly what you are seeing? This month, Judith Jubb is preparing the tour that will include the brightest stars, constellations, visible planets and whatever else there is. 

She is fantastic at knowing the night sky, but she will be preparing to make sure that nothing will be missed. This is something you can then start doing yourself.

 There will be a total lunar eclipse on the morning of Wednesday, May 26. Because it is a lunar eclipse, eye protection is not needed. It will be a super moon, meaning the moon is closer to Earth than it normally is because its orbit is not a circle, but an oval. The moon is at the narrowest part of the oval and appears larger. The eclipse will cause it to become a deep red blood moon and the color is expected to be exceptional. The eclipse begins at 2:47 a.m. The full eclipse, the most dramatic part, begins at 5:11 a.m., with the maximum being at 5:18 a.m., and the full eclipse is over by 5:25 a.m. The end of the eclipse will not be visible from Pagosa because it will be below the horizon. 

 Our next Stargazer club meeting will be on Thursday, May 27, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Visitor Center on Hot Springs Boulevard along the San Juan River. We will be sharing and critiquing all of the presentations that will be given at Chimney Rock National Monument Night Sky programs. We will be indoors, it is free and everyone is welcome. It is a wonderful opportunity for anyone who cannot normally attend our Night Sky programs. We will show presentations on the ancient people of Chimney Rock, our solar system, and stars and galaxies, with people leaving brief written comments and suggestions. 

Friday, May 28, will be our first members-only telescope viewing and training at Chimney Rock. The gate will open at 7 p.m. This will be our only opportunity to prepare for our important training session given by astronomer and observatory owner Steve McAllister on June 4. He will provide the best training for telescope use. He will be available for training starting at 1 p.m., but we are asking that members sign up and commit for the daytime hours. Because telescopes can pass coronavirus on the eyepiece, this is for members only. There will be strict rules on sharing of telescopes. If you have your COVID immunization card, please bring it. If you don’t have a telescope, we have several extra available requiring prearrangements. 

May 29 and 30 will be Life at Chimney Rock, which is a free event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. There will be all kinds of activities for children and adults; and Native artists, some having ancestors from Chimney Rock, with beautiful jewelry, pottery and other artwork available. We are expecting to have the makers of the wonderful Navajo tacos. We are hoping to have a solar telescope to check on our favorite star, which is starting to have an increase in activity on its 11-year cycle. The reason we have astronomy activities is that Chimney Rock was basically an ancient astronomy site for the Chacoan culture. We are happily continuing their legacy.

At all of our events, we will follow the COVID regulations for Archuleta County and Colorado for that date. Wear a mask if not vaccinated or in case it is again needed.

If you would like to join the San Juan Stargazers, you will also receive Reflector Magazine, which is the publication of the National Astronomical League of which you automatically become a member. To join both groups and get an excellent astronomy magazine, annual membership is only $25 per family. You can join at our events or by following the directions on our website.

 The San Juan Stargazers Club is part of the Astronomical League, which includes clubs from all over the U.S. We have a website, www.sanjuanstargazers.org. Hope to see you at an event.