Celebrate National Astronomy Day Oct. 9 with out-of-this-world activities

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By Joan Mieritz

San Juan Stargazers

Saturday, Oct. 9, is National Astronomy Day sponsored by the National Astronomical League, celebrating its 75th year of service to residents of planet Earth. 

The San Juan Stargazers Astronomy Club is one of over 250 clubs across the U.S. taking part. The Stargazers will be at the Pagosa Springs Visitor Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Look for our beautiful new banners: “San Juan Stargazers” and “Astronomy Day.” Everyone is invited to attend since there will be something for everyone to learn regardless of your age or skill level. 

There will be activities for adults, including viewing lessons about amazing Hubble photos and improving telescope skills. People will be able to select a 20- to 30-minute lesson on a topic of your choice. And, you will have a chance to ask about anything related to astronomy that has you curious with a team of the best astronomers in Pagosa, who will try to answer. We will also have a few books on hand.

There will be lots of hands-on activities for children of all ages. In the past, it has been special fun for family members to work on an astronomy activity together. Parents or grandparents and children make good teams. Among the many activities, you will be able to make glow-in-the-dark stars and constellations. 

We have colorful flashcards with constellations and Messier objects and two exceptional booklets called “Star Atlas” and “Our Milky Way” that are for sale, as well as a model of the solar system and inflatable globes of the earth, making exciting Christmas gifts that are reasonable to mail. 

There will be refreshments and time to hang out with some interesting and caring people. We are certain that you will learn something new about our amazing universe and you will have an enjoyable, relaxing time. 

You can also place your order for your 2022 Deep Space Mysteries Calendars, which will arrive later in October. You can pay upon receiving. These also make wonderful gifts that are meaningful and easy to mail.

The year is winding down at Chimney Rock National Monument and for the Stargazers, with only two scheduled events remaining. On Friday, Oct. 8, will be the last Night Sky Program with the gate opening at 5:45 p.m. and the program starting at 6:30 p.m. We have reservations from a nearby good-sized high school group, so we will be including both presentations on our solar system and stars and galaxies after you first learn about the ancient people at Chimney Rock .

A generous club member has offered to cover the cost of any Pagosa Springs High School student who attends (just come, identify yourself and no reservation is needed). We will end our program with the popular Tour of the Night Sky prepared by Judith Jubb and presented by Aaron McCracken. I am also inviting all club members with telescopes to simultaneously set them up in the upper parking lot (weather permitting).

Our last scheduled Chimney Rock event will be our end-of-the year celebration (after 10 successful and amazing Night Sky Programs and our ninth anniversary dinner on Saturday, Oct. 16. The free dinner (reservations required by Saturday at noon; call Joan) will be served at 4 p.m. in the amphitheater so that some of our members who do not like night driving can attend and be home before dark. 

Other members who love dark night skies will end with an “all night” (just teasing) star party with telescopes in the upper parking lot. We will also be having short-notice, members-only night sky parties in October and November, whenever road construction and the weather allows. We need practice. Watch for club blasts.

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. 

Our Night Sky Program on Oct. 8 will be exceptional,and Astronomy Day on Oct. 9 in town at the Visitor Center should be an enjoyable time to learn and appreciate our amazing universe. And our end-of-the-year celebration and ninth anniversary dinner with telescopes will be the grand finale of our 2021 season. Members and guests are welcome at these events. 

Remember: Astronomy expands your life to the edge of the universe.