Summer is time to be dazzled by starry night skies
By Amanda Jermyn



Now that the warm summer nights have arrived, let yourself be dazzled by the wonders of a clear starry sky. Find a quiet dark spot from which to observe, be it with telescope, binoculars or your own two curious eyes.

While nature puts on her show for free, there are a number of organized stargazing activities available in the area throughout the summer. When skies are clear, the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomers Association, together with the Astronomy Association, will host the following free programs during the summer: solar observing on Saturdays at 1pm at Mount Pollux in Amherst; night sky observing on Saturdays at 9pm at the Amherst College Wilder Observatory; and observing on Sundays at sunset at Mount Pollux. There will also be free sun and moon observing on Saturday, August 22nd from 10am outside the A2Z Science & Learning Store in Northampton. For more information on these and other events visit http://www.astronomyassociation.org/.

The 33rd annual Connecticut River Valley Astronomer’s Conjunction runs from July 10th to 12th at the Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center in Northfield, MA. Events include a debate, “Humans versus Robots: The Future of Space Exploration,” by Ed Faits and Richard Sanderson; “Dance of the Polar Lights” by Steve Hubbard; “Building Your Own Antique Telescope” by Dick Parker; and “The Universe According to Chaple,” which is an interview with the popular astronomy writer Glenn Chaple by Jack Megas. The keynote speaker is J. Kelly Beatty, senior editor at Sky & Telescope, who will speak on “Encounter with Pluto.” Other activities include solar and nighttime viewing through telescopes, a swap table, camping on the Connecticut River, and an outdoor buffet dinner. For more information visit http://www.philharrington.net/astroconjunction or contact Richard Sanderson at rsanderson@springfieldmuseums.org.

A unique stargazing event organized by the Springfield Stars Club is “Music and Astronomy under the Stars, “ held at Tanglewood, the annual summer music festival in the Berkshires, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. This event takes place during Tanglewood on Parade on Tuesday, August 4th, starting at noon and continuing until 11pm. A tent and telescopes will be set up on the lawn, just inside the main gate. The program features solar observing and stargazing for adults and children. The musical program for Tanglewood on Parade features works by Tchaikovsky and John Williams and, for the finale, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, followed by fireworks. For more information, please visit the Boston Symphony Orchestra website at www.bso.org.

This year, Stellafane, the 80th Convention of Amateur Telescope Makers, will be held from August 13th through 16th on Breezy Hill in Springfield, Vermont. This annual gathering gives amateur telescope makers the opportunity to show off their creations and teach one another about telescope making. The Keynote speaker will be Alan Stern, principal investigator on the New Horizons mission. Following the New Horizons spacecraft’s flyby of Pluto in July, Stern will provide a first-hand account of what the encounter has revealed about Pluto, and what is next for the fastest spacecraft ever launched. Speakers at a workshop on Innovation in Astronomy Education and Outreach will include Dr. Michael Faison, director of the Leitner Observatory at Yale University, and Shauna Edson, astronomy educator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. A key feature of the Stellafane Convention is the telescope competition, which gives amateur telescope makers a chance to compete for awards. In addition, there will be astronomy activities for children and teens. For more information about Stellafane visit http://stellafane.org/.

You may also want to consider attending the Rockland Astronomy Club’s Summer Star Party, organized by the Northeast Astronomy Forum, at the Peppermint Park Camping Resort in Plainfield, MA. Events are open to the public, and run from August 7th to 16th. Come for a night or stay for all ten days. Activities include talks, dinners, demonstrations and stargazing, with telescopes available for dark sky observing. For more information visit http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/ssp.html.

Another stargazing highlight is Arunah Hill Days at the Arunah Hill Natural Science Center in Cummington from September 4th to 6th. This family-oriented weekend includes stargazing, nature walks, GPS treasure hunts, rocket building and launching, and science education. Several large telescopes will be available for nighttime viewing, and experienced amateur astronomers will conduct constellation orientation talks. All events are free and open to the public. For more information visit www.arunah.org.

Happy stargazing this summer! There’s always more to discover!