Sgt O’Brien sent an email about how beautiful the night sky was in Afghanistan. I wish I could see the brilliance of the stars the way he can.
He said the stars and the mountains were the prettiest he had ever seen. There is no light pollution and the stars look like jewels dumped from a velvet bag. He said the mountains were sharp and bare of vegetation. The combination of the stark mountains, the vast sky and the quiet was awesome.
The closest I can come to Afghanistan is Flickr.
Looking at these pictures remind me that we live in a desert with beautiful mountains as well. I love how big the sky is here and at night I can see more stars than I could on th East Coast. I want to go stargazing and soak up the big sky.
Maricopa County shares their stargazing schedule online. The talks are hosted by the husband and wife team of “Star Gazing for Everyone” Tony and Carole LeConte. This hard working couple puts on over 300 shows a year and their passion is star gazing. I read about them online and it’s time to meet them in person. The LeConte’s travel all over the valley visiting regional parks, you can find a show near your house. The shows are best for children aged 6 and up. Look through telescopes (setup for your viewing pleasure) and enjoy a slide presentation under the stars. Learn the names of stars, see the constellations, and listen to stories of the night sky. When visible, view the craters of the moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and the rings of Saturn. Bring lawn chairs or blankets for your comfort. Information about the Challenger Learning Center of Arizona will be provided. Bring your own binoculars if you have them.
The Riparian Preserve in Gilbert has an observatory. The programming is run by the East Valley Astronomy Club. They are open the second Friday of each month or by appointment. This post is East Valley centric, but it should serve to give you an overall idea that star gazing is popular and accessible all around the valley. For more star gazing resources, check out this list of local astronomy clubs.
Librarian Note: My favorite book for children on stargazing is, “Find the Constellation” by Curious George author H.A. Rey.
Another unique to the Valley place to visit is the unwieldy named Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Visitor Gallery, located in the Interdisciplinary A building on ASU’s Tempe campus. You can view a piece of moon rock that is on long term loan and is billions of years old. Kind of awesome and of course, free. This is definitely going on my list of beat the heat destinations this summer.
To get a map customized to the date and location, enter your address on the longitude and latitude finder at touchmap.com. Then plug that data into the Starry Night Sky Chart and voila, a personalized map of the constellations for tonight. If you have an ipad or iphone consider the Star Walk 5 Stars Astronomy guide. It labels the night sky when you point your screen at it. Amazing.
Like a diamond in the sky,
Activist Note: Phoenix was once considered one of the best places in America to see the night sky. With the increase of light pollution the folks at darksky.org are fighting to keep our stars bright. I was surprised to learn that digital billboards are sources of light pollution. Dark sky conservation might be an interesting topic for a student science fair project. AZ Republic published a recent article about the fight to keep the skies dark.