The 2014 Tucson Public Star Party is just around the corner

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Sunday, February 02, 2014

Members of the Girl Scouts provided hands-on activities during the first Tucson Star Party, held in 2013. // photos by Michael E. Bakich
If you plan on being anywhere near Tucson on Saturday, February 8, 2014, join Editor David Eicher and me as Astronomy magazine hosts its second annual all-day skywatching party at the East Campus Observatory of Pima Community College (PCC). Last year, everyone involved had a blast, and this year looks to be even better.

Activities begin at 10 a.m. and continue all the way through 9 p.m. Members of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA) will have telescopes set up day and night to allow visitors to look at the Sun (safely) during the day and the Moon, Jupiter, and an assortment of deep-sky objects after sundown, which occurs at 5:04 p.m.

At the same time TAAA members are showing the wonders of the sky to people, talks will be going on in Pima Community College’s Community Room, which is near the site where all the telescopes will be. At 10:30 a.m., Keith Schlottman, past president of the TAAA, will present “Our Beautiful, Violent Universe.” About his talk, Schlottmann says, “We live in a fairly calm and safe place in the universe, and looking up at the night sky invokes a sense of peace and inspiration. But all is not so quiet in space, and some of the most spectacular sights are actually the result of distant cataclysmic events. In my talk, I’ll explore how our violent universe provides skywatchers with a beautiful gift.”

Scott Kardel, president of the International Dark-Sky Association, will be next to speak, at 11:30 a.m. His talk is titled, “What Can You Do About Light Pollution?” The description of Kardel’s talk states, “Light pollution is the only form of pollution that can easily be stopped with the flick of a switch. It is estimated that every year $110 billion is wasted worldwide due to unnecessary, poorly directed light. My talk will describe this waste and what we can all do about it.”

At 1:30 p.m., Mike Reynolds, dean of Liberal Arts & Sciences at Florida State College at Jacksonville and a contributing editor of Astronomy, presents, “Things That Go Bump in the Night.” This fascinating talk looks at the dangers near-Earth objects pose. Could an asteroid end our existence? Reynolds, a well-known meteoriticist, also will cover the hazards and opportunities that shooting stars present.

The Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association arrived at Pima Community college early enough to be completely set up when visitors began arriving last year.
The last talk of the day is by Astronomy Editor Eicher. “Comets: Visitors from Deep Space” will be a fast-paced tour of the history, present, and future of these important yet mysterious cosmic bodies. From ancient times, humans have been fascinated by “broom stars” and “blazing scimitars” lighting up the sky and moving against the fixed background of stars. The great comets of our time still receive in-depth attention — Hale-Bopp, Hyakutake, West, and others — while recent spacecraft encounters offer amazing insight into the earliest days of the solar system.

After each of the illustrated talks, the speakers will field questions from the audience. What a great way to learn about astronomy! Be sure to talk up this event with family and friends. Make it an all day affair.

As you walk the hallway to the Community Room, you’ll also be able to learn about astronomy from a variety of groups that will have tables set up. In addition to the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and the International Dark-Sky Association, groups as diverse as the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, and the Girl Scouts will have displays and, in some cases, hands-on activities. Astronomy will be giving out free copies of our current issue in addition to our wildly popular How to Buy Your First Telescope booklet.

While you’re at the star party, don’t forget to visit the Pima Community College Observatory, which will remain open all day and night. Its solar telescope will follow the Sun in the daytime, and its 14-inch telescope will target deep-sky treats at night.

Fellowship with other star-gazing enthusiasts, interesting speakers, and the prospect of clear skies mean that the 2014 Tucson Public Star Party is shaping up as a “must-see” event. So, when you make plans to come out, be sure to bring family and friends. And remember, the star party will be held February 8 at the Pima Community College East Campus Observatory, 8181 East Irvington Road, southeast of the center of the city.

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