San Juan Stargazers announce opportunity to view Perseids at Chimney Rock


By Joan Mieritz | San Juan Stargazers

On Aug. 14, the San Juan Stargazers will have a program at Chimney Rock National Monument available to the public for locals and out-of-town visitors (no reservations needed) with activities beginning at 7 p.m. and then viewing of the Perseid meteor shower at about 9 p.m. 

The cost is a donation for the San Juan Stargazers Club. 

The gate will be open from 7 until 8:30 p.m. Guests will be met near the Visitors Center to sign in and be given their assigned viewing location. The reason for assigning places is for safety due to the dangerous drop-offs and our using areas that normally are not used by the public in this way. 

We will assign a place based on the number and ages of the people in your group. For example, people with small but walking children will get the safest parking spots where they can put folding chairs next to their cars to create shelter for their family. Couples and others can bring blankets or light mattresses to be put in a special location on the ground to lay under the stars to see the special shooting stars. Adults and older children will be able to bring folding camping chairs to be in a very open location with a fabulous view of the night sky. 

Starting shortly after 7 p.m. there will be art activities and astronomy lessons for both children and adults at the hura-dura in the lower level of the upper parking lot near the restrooms. 

Starting at 8 p.m., club members will set up telescopes in the upper parking lot so that visitors can view a few planets before the movement restriction which begins at 9 p.m. Everyone needs to use the restrooms before 9 p.m. After that, everyone needs to be in their assigned viewing locations and only emergency movement is allowed because it is too dangerous to walk around with shear drop-offs in almost all directions. Club members will be available to aid visitors when they want to leave. 

This program, in its third year, has something special about it. People have really enjoyed it. The Perseid meteor shower is caused by debris: ice, dust and rocks left by Comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered and named in 1862. It is visible from July 23 to Aug. 22, with its peak being Aug. 11-13, and is best seen from midnight to sunrise. 

We won’t be able to stay at Chimney Rock until sunrise, but we may make to midnight, depending on our group. We hope to see you for this special experience at a very special place. 

Other activities in August 

On Aug. 18, we will present a program for the public, titled Stars and Galaxies, where we look for deep-sky objects with our telescopes. 

On Aug. 25, we present to the public the Our Solar System program with a focus on the moon & visible planets. 

Reservations are needed, but you can come and if cancellations happen, which they often do, you can attend and pay for your ticket at the gift shop. The gate opens at 7:30 p.m. 

More activities for 2023 

The Stargazers are ending this year with some special fun activities. 

On Sept. 11, by special request we will have Steve McAllister from the Westcliff Observatory to give us telescope classes and individual coaching as he has done for the past two years. 

We will also be having two more member/speakers, Dr. Andy Green and Barbara Sanborn, at our regular meetings with dates yet to be determined. 

We also will have our Annual End-of-the-Year Dinner and Celebration in October or early November. The date will be determined soon. 

There will be an annular solar eclipse on Oct. 14 at approximately 9 a.m. It can be seen in Archuleta County, but Chimney Rock will have a special program on that morning. It will only last for four minutes. It is called a “ring of fire eclipse” and can only be seen from a 130-mile-wide path that we are close to. The Four Corners area is a better location for viewing the ring. More information will be given closer to the day. 

More about the Stargazers

If you would like to join the San Juan Stargazers, you will also receive Reflector Magazine — 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 the club at any of our events or now you can join using PayPal at any time on our website: Check out our recently improved website with much more information and fabulous pictures.

We invite you to learn about and appreciate living in our unbelievable universe.