July, 2016 Edition

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Unforgetabble night sky

Areas around Kanab offer some of the best night views

A small group of us are standing on a Star Deck; our vision directed upward into the unfathomable night sky by the enthusiastic voice of our Star Party Guides, Rick and his wife, Gayle. Gayle is directing a bright laser beam that helps us focus on what they are describing. Tonight we can see Saturn, Mars and Jupiter.
Jupiter has 67 moons and we can pinch our eyes to see six of them.
Everyone on the deck catches their breath as they see the red “Garnet” Star way back in space preparing for its eventual explosion. Patiently, they point out the constellations for each of our astrological signs and explain how the “beehive” within the Cancer Constellation includes two red Super Stars and other stars with planets.
We continue looking into the sky and learn that stars are born in “nurseries” and they help us recognize the age of young, adolescent and old stars by their distinctive colors. Everyone begins to wonder about the exoplanets that may support some form of life, and our intelligent hosts offer their mathematical expectations on the possibilities. Shooting stars and even the Space Station wheel overhead while our heads spin around gaping at the amazing dark sky. What a fascinating evening.
Ptolemy, Aristotle, Copernicus and Galileo get the credit as our earliest astronomers, but they were far from being the first. People have always studied the sky in one way or another – we cannot resist its inexhaustible beauty.
The first recorded example of astronomy is around 3,500 years old and suggests people were probably observing the night sky back in the early Bronze Age.
The sad thing now is that somewhere between 80 percent and 90 percent of the American population can’t even see the Milky Way — that massive and magnificent spiral galaxy we call home. Over 100 billion stars slide sideways across the skies within the Milky Way alone and are hidden from view by the miasma of artificial lighting that has congested our night skies.
You can get away from the abnormal pollution of light. Kanab and the surrounding Kane County are measured a three on the nine-level Bortle Dark-Sky Scale evaluating the absolute clarity of night skies.
In the dark canyons surrounding town, 6,500 to 10,000 stars, many constellations, meteors, shooting stars and planets can be seen — as well as the Milky Way.
Unless you want to go to the Atacama Chile, the Australian Outback or Serengeti Plains of Africa this is one of the best places to see the night sky in all its brilliance and mystery. Hosts like our Star Party Tonight are available, as well as night sky events at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.
The best months of the year for viewing multiple planets is July through August, under a new moon. For more information on what planets will be available to see, go to www.timeanddate.com.
As a local astronomer wrote; “We are all atoms, all part of the star dust that has exploded throughout space and eventually created us. Look at the star-specked sky and become aware of yourself, listening to the whispering stars.” (Von Del Chamberlain)
Stargazing Tonight, a local touring company hosts “Star Parties” every night, weather permitting, pointing out planets and constellations with hi-powered lasers and looking closer at celestial objects with crystal clear optics.
Their tours are fun, safe, and you will learn about the Universe we live in.
Come to Kanab and see our remarkable night sky with them. Reservations can be made by calling (435) 644-2540.