Make a comet for National Astronomy Day Saturday, Oct. 9


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” “Astronomy Day” with fabulous pictures. 

Everyone is invited to attend since there will be something for everyone to learn regardless of your age or skill level. The biggest excitement of the day will be when we “make a comet” at 1 p.m. It will not fly over Pagosa on Saturday night, so you have to be there during the day to see it form. We use comet ingredients, mix them in a huge tub, let them form a chemical reaction, add dry ice and start the debate whether we have a “dirty snowball” or a “snowy dirtball.” It is an interesting and worthwhile experiment and it truly looks like a comet, if ever you could get close enough to see.

There will be activities for adults including lessons about amazing Hubble photos and improving telescope skills. And, you will have a chance to ask about anything you’ve wanted to know about astronomy, with a team of the best astronomers in Pagosa to answer. We also have a few books on hand, if we need help.

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. 

We will have many astronomy study tools for sale. 

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.

Other events

Friday, Oct. 8, will be the last Night Sky Program at Chimney Rock National Monument, with the gate opening at 5:45 p.m. and the program starting at 6:30 p.m. We have reservations from a 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) will be served at 4 p.m. 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 star parties in October and November, whenever road construction and the weather allow. Watch for club blasts.

Remember: Astronomy can expand your life to the edge of the universe. We hope to see you at one of our events.