First photos from the James Webb Space Telescope released

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By Joan Mieritz | San Juan Stargazers

I hope that everyone has had the opportunity to see some of the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, which will revolutionize our understanding of the cosmos. 

The first picture of a deep field is the deepest and highest resolution of galaxies as they appeared 13 billion years ago and was released on Monday by President Joe Biden, with additional later releases by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. The San Juan Stargazers have been waiting for years for these photos. Bob Mitchel, who worked on the Webb and has a house in Pagosa Springs, did his first presentation to us on the James Webb in 2013. He will be speaking again this September and the whole community will be invited.

The Stargazers are adding a new night of amazing educational opportunities for all of Pagosa. Starting in August, we will be meeting once a month for a new program titled “Hubble and the Webb.” We are hoping that many students and their parents will attend this free and very exciting program. 

We are asking for community involvement. Anyone can download the Webb pictures and present them at this gathering. Then other people can add information and comments. We will all learn a great deal. Webb photos will have priority, but if there is time left, we will study Hubble’s greatest hits. The date for the first session will be given next week.

On Wednesday, July 20, we will all test our luck with weather by having Steve McAlister from the Westcliff Observatory here to help people with their telescopes and then give us a tour of the deep night sky that will “knock your socks off.” 

That night we are inviting anyone in the community to bring their dusty boxed or closeted telescopes to the Chimney Rock upper parking lot. You can join the Stargazers and have McAlister help get your scope set up and functioning or at least know what immediately needs to be done to accomplish that. With your membership, you will have an entire year of training to use your scope. This could change your life. That questionable scope has been sitting there gathering dust for long enough.

McAlister came last summer and this summer on June 1, and he was so helpful with solving problems with telescopes and giving us a fantastic view of deep-sky objects. Those who attended on June 1 are still in awe. 

On Friday, July 15, there will be a night sky program at Chimney Rock entitled Stars and Galaxies. You don’t need a reservation. Just show up and we can fit you in the big beautiful amphitheater. The gate opens at 7:15 p.m. with the program beginning at 8 p.m. We have added a new speaker, Tom Hanchurt, who worked for years at NASA’s mission control and personally spoke with numerous astronauts. He was an absolute hit with the kids at his first presentation. You also will learn about the ancient people and their study of astronomy and amazing information about stars and galaxies.

Also note our regular club meeting will be on Thursday, July 28, in the Community United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall on 434 Lewis St. At 6 p.m., there is a social time with coffee, tea, etc. and a treat.

This month’s program on the Galilean moons of Jupiter will be interesting and very useful since they are sometimes visible to the naked eye and for sure with binoculars. All members will receive a special bonus surprise for attending.

If you would like to join the San Juan Stargazers, our new membership year begins July1. 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. This year, there is a fabulous special gift for new and renewing members. It will help you become the astronomer you have always dreamed of being. You will love it. You can join the club at any of our events. 

The San Juan Stargazers Club is part of the Astronomical League, celebrating its 75th year of service. It includes more than 250 clubs from all over the U.S. Our local group also has a website, www.sanjuanstargazers.org. Check it out for more information and beautiful Hubble photos. We welcome everyone to learn more about our amazing universe. We hope to see you soon.