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Monday, August 2, 2021

San Juan Stargazers plan meeting, special events

By Joan Mieritz
San Juan Stargazers

Our next San Juan Stargazers Astronomy Club meeting will be on Thursday, July 22, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Pagosa Springs Visitor Center on Hot Springs Boulevard near the San Juan River. If you would like to relax with a cold drink or cup of coffee or tea and some stimulating conversation, you can arrive after 6 p.m. for our social hour. 

Our program, at 7 p.m., will be very interesting and quite practical. The title is: “What YouTube Offers to Support Astronomy.” We will start with a YouTube film called “The Privileged Planet,” which describes how lucky we are to have a place, like Earth, so perfect for our existence. We will view several specific posts YouTube has each month to help telescope viewers. Then, if time, we will check out posts NASA makes. These all are tools we can use to increase our knowledge of astronomy. 

On Friday, July 30, will be a members-only telescope viewing and training at Chimney Rock. The gate will open at 8 p.m. If you don’t have a telescope, we have several extra available. Our club goal is to increase the number of deep-sky objects our members can find. 

We are planning to have a highly skilled guest astronomer to help us. We have already scheduled Steve McAllister from the Westcliff Observatory to be our guest astronomer on Aug. 27, when he will especially help all interested members learn to use our two 10-inch Dobsonians and all of us will later practice expert “star-hopping.”

We also have Night Sky Programs at Chimney Rock two Friday nights each month. The next will be on Aug. 6 (Stars and Galaxies) and Aug. 13 (Our Solar System). Locals, come even if you don’t have a reservation since we most likely won’t turn you away if you act really interested. 

Mark your calendar for Aug. 11 and 12, which will be the first Perseid meteor shower viewing at Chimney Rock. You will be able to view from your car or pick a special place to put a folding chair or cushions to lay out on in a sleeping bag. It will not be like the finale at the July 4 fireworks. The universe has “much bigger” explosions, but we always hope they take place in a different galaxy. This will be a silent, relaxing time at Chimney Rock under a dark sky with occasional bright streaks of particles burning up as they enter our atmosphere. Every August as the Earth revolves around the sun, it enters the debris field of the comet Swift-Tuttle and we get an extra display of “shooting stars.” We will be able to imagine what it was like for ancient people to wonder what was so brightly streaking across the night sky. The later you view a meteor shower, the better the display, so we are planning on staying until after midnight, but you can leave any time you want. We have two nights available in case of clouds and to have smaller groups.

At all of our events we will follow the COVID regulations for Archuleta County and Colorado for that date. Always bring a mask to be safe.

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/ family. You can join the club at any of our events. To all members: Your 2021-2022 dues are due. Use an envelope, please, with your name and amount of cash or check made to Joan Mieritz.

The San Juan Stargazers Club is part of the Astronomical League, which includes almost 250 clubs from all over the U.S. Our local group also has a website, www.sanjuanstargazers.org. Check it out.

We welcome everyone to come to learn more about our amazing universe. Hope to see you.

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