Dark Skies at Catalina State Park - The Explorer: News

Dark Skies at Catalina State Park

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Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 4:00 am

If you have a sense of curiosity about those twinkling lights in the night sky, come to Catalina State Park for the next Star Party. As news evolves everyday from the many probes into our universe, everyone seems to be more fascinated about night skies including details like the rings around Saturn and tracking down glittering galaxies. A galaxy can be only 2.5 million light-years away and you can see it with the naked eye. Jupiter’s moons you can see with binoculars. Now imagine what you can see with the 10 big telescopes that these astronomers will have at Catalina State Park Telescopes can get you to those ghostly nebulae, star clusters, the moon’s cratered landscapes, and Venus’ crescent phases, but a good pair of binoculars can help you do that, too.

Catalina State Park will host the first Star Party on Saturday, Feb. 22, and the one after that will be April 19. The Feb. 22 event will start at 6:30 p.m. and go until 9:30 p.m. Astronomers will be onsite to answer questions and discuss the elements of the night sky as darkness descends. Visitors should meet at the main trailhead parking lot. When the night sky arrives, astronomers will volunteer their expertise and telescopes for visitors to view an assortment of night sky attractions including star clusters, galaxies and nebulae.

Visitors should bring water, snacks, a red light (to protect everyone’s night vision), sweater or jacket. This star-gazing opportunity is supported by the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association with volunteers who bring telescopes to teach visitors about stars.

Catalina State Park’s entrance fee is $7 per vehicle (up to four adults). Primitive to full hookup camping sites are available at a fee of $15 to $30 depending on the type of camping site needed. Catalina State Park is located on State Highway 77 (Oracle Road) at mile marker 81, just nine miles north of Tucson and six miles north of Ina Road.

For information, visit the website and online camping reservations at AZStateParks.com.

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