Jul 17

The Moon, the Planets, and Bikes: Yikes!

Image Courtesy of NASA on Unsplash.

The Moon, The Planets, and Bikes; Yikes!

By Rich Csenge, president, Stellar Vista Observatory

Weather update!! Unfortunately, long awaited monsoon rains are causing cancellation of this event. But we’re grateful for rainfall to even slightly ease what scientists say is the worst drought in 1,200 years for the Western US. When sky conditions improve, we’ll reschedule!

Rare opportunity: An outdoor community activity especially designed for early birds who enjoy getting outside on cool summer mornings! Meet Kanab’s amateur astronomy buffs for a twilight tour of our Solar System. Then take a bike ride at daybreak around Jackson Flat Reservoir on the Sherry Belle Trail. The event is free and open to all ages, including children and youth. Do you or your friends prefer electric scooters? Those are welcome too! And if your job or the day’s adventure begins at 8:00 AM, you’ll still have time to grab a bite, be refreshed and on time!

At 5:00 AM sharp on Tuesday, July 26, you’ll find Stellar Vista Observatory’s sidewalk astronomers ready to share telescopic views of the planets Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and Venus, as well as the beautiful crescent moon gracing the morning mid-summer sky. On that particular morning, the moon will be just 2.5 degrees from Venus, in what astronomers call a conjunction, making for a very pretty sight. SVO’s powerful instruments can take you there – and far beyond – to the Pleiades Star Cluster, and even the Andromeda Galaxy, nearest neighbor to our Milky Way. These spectacular sights are all visible now in the pre-dawn sky.

Several telescopes will be set up for your enjoyment at the Jackson Flat Boat Launch parking area where bathroom facilities are available. Then at 6:00 AM, when even those distant objects gleaming most brightly in the night sky (the planets) have faded into twilight, we’ll put away the scopes and hop on the 2-mile paved trail to enjoy a peaceful early morning loop ride, enhanced by the sight and songs of the many species of birds hanging out around the water. If you have binoculars, bring ‘em!

A little crazy to be out so early? Well, maybe, but think of it this way. Learning more about the wonders of our universe can open up the imagination and stimulate life transforming dreams. For some, it can even be a spiritual experience, to know that all creation, all matter, the elements of the periodic table, even the stuff we are made of, originates in stars.

Stellar Vista Observatory, a 501c3 nonprofit based in Kanab, provides observational experiences for people to enjoy, appreciate and comprehend what we can see in southern Utah’s starry night skies. The organization also provides weekly sky reports published in 5 regional newspapers (including the Southern Utah News) and on the web, plus portable, easy-to-use telescopes and tripod mounted binocular kits on loan for free to residents and visitors in Kane County. Enhance your enjoyment of the night sky! For details or to request a loan, visit https://stellarvistaobservatory.org/discover-the-night-sky/ or inquire at the Kane County Office of Tourism.

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