Summer nights provide perfect skies for stargazing
By Amanda Jermyn



For the perfect stargazing recipe, have on hand: one warm summer night, a clear, dark sky, a pair of binoculars, a telescope (optional), and your own two curious eyes. Mix well and enjoy!

If this recipe is not enough to tempt you or you need a little extra guidance, consider one of the many organized stargazing activities available locally that just might fit the bill. On July 19th at 9pm, the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomers Association, together with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, will host a free public star party at the summit of Mount Greylock, with telescopes available, as well as advice on how to use them. For more information, visit http://www.mtgreylockstarparty.org/.

Other free programs hosted by the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomers Association, together with the Astronomy Association, include 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 be free sun and moon observing on Saturday, August 2nd from 9am outside the A2Z Science & Learning Store in Northampton. For more information on these and other events visit http://www.astronomyassociation.org/.

This year Stellafane, the 79th Convention of Amateur Telescope Makers, will be held from July 24th through 27th 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. Christina Dunn will give the keynote address on “Creating the Giant: Fabricating the Mirrors of the European Extremely Large Telescope.” Dunn is an expert on ultra precision surfaces in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at University College London. A workshop on “Binary and Multiple Star Astronomy” will be given by Professor Harold McAlister, Director of the Mount Wilson Institute and Georgia State’s Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy. Additional speakers include Al Takeda on “Imaging Comets,” Ted Blank on “Chasing Shadows: Citizen-Science Opportunities in Occultation Measurement” and Kris Larsen on “Using a Medieval Astrolabe.” A key feature of the Stellafane Convention is the telescope competition, which gives amateur telescope makers a chance to compete for awards. There will also 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 July 25th to August 3rd. 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/index.html.

The annual Connecticut River Valley Astronomers’ Conjunction runs from August 22nd to 23rd at the Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center in Northfield, MA. Conjunction activities include astronomy presentations, solar and nighttime viewing through telescopes, an astronomical flea market and an outdoor buffet dinner. Al Takeda and Tim Connolly will talk on “Digital Astrophotography for Beginners,” John Sillasen will talk about “Performing Public Astronomy at Mauna Kea,” Rich Nugent will talk on “Observing Earth Satellites,” and Dave Kelly will reflect on “The Legacy of John Dobson.” The keynote address will be given by William Waller on “Navigating our Milky Way Galaxy.” Waller is an astronomer, science educator and writer. He has worked with NASA on several space science projects. Copies of his book, “The Milky Way – An Insider’s Guide,” will be available for sale. For more information visit http://www.philharrington.net/astroconjunction/ or contact Richard Sanderson at rsanderson@springfieldmuseums.org.

Another stargazing highlight is Arunah Hill Days at the Arunah Hill Natural Science Center in Cummington from August 29th to September 1st. 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.

Whatever stargazing recipe you choose, enjoy the night sky, a sumptuous feast for the senses!