Western Slope Skies - Amateur Astronomy

Jul 1, 2016

Credit Joyce Tanihara

It’s a dark area broken by the faint glow of red lights, and your eyes are just adjusting to make out a figure, hunched over what vaguely looks to be a telescope.

“Hey, I’ve got Saturn!” exclaims the figure. “I’ve got a double star,” shouts another voice. “I’ve got the Andromeda galaxy. Come take a look!” says someone toward the back.

You are at a “star party.” This is where amateur astronomers, whose interest in the night sky transcends their day-time existence and compels them to haul various pieces of equipment, sometimes long distances, to view astronomical objects and share their knowledge and enthusiasm with others.

Some are “newbies” to the hobby, and others are pursuing a life-long addiction. What they all have in common is their fascination with astronomy, and seeing with their own eyes what the night sky can reveal.

Amateur astronomy can be enjoyed by anyone who has “caught the bug.” A pair of binoculars is a good start, and from there it is a matter of choice - how much the pocketbook (and one’s back) will bear. Astronomy equipment can be heavy! 

Star charts, smartphone apps, or some star-hopping tips from a green-laser-wielding guide will get you going in the proper “direction” to find common objects.

Attend a night sky viewing event.  Your local club may hold one, or many National Parks, including the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, have programs throughout the year.

While some do pursue research, amateur astronomers do not have to be  “rocket scientists” or astrophysicist. Those are the professionals who rarely have time to personally view and enjoy the night sky.

On the other hand, we in Western Colorado are fortunate to have dark skies in our own backyards or at local venues - something to appreciate, take advantage of, and perhaps cultivate an interest in.

Western Slope Skies is produced by members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society. This episode was written and recorded by Joyce Tanihara.