Santa Fe Stargazers @ Pecos National Historic Park

On May 4, 2019, Pecos National Historic Park held one of its semi-annual “Starry Nights at Pecos” events. This time, the Santa Fe Stargazers were there to help!

May 4’s Starry Nights at Pecos” event featured early evening entertainment by the Santa Fe Brass Quintet; a presentation on the threat of light pollution and the National Park Service’s role as a steward of our night sky resource, and on the size of the solar system; and observing provided jointly by the National Park Service staff, volunteers, and the Santa Fe Stargazers’ Tom Aldern, Sam Finn, Brad  Jones, and Robert Powers.  

"But which end do you look through?"

All arrived early to set-up prior to the Quintet’s presentation: Robert help set-up the Park’s 6″ SCTs, Brad brought his 11″ SCT, Tom his 12″ Dob, and Sam his 5″ refractor.

How do you find North during the day?

As sunset approached the sky began to cloud over. With the clouds came a rising sense of panic: what would we do with the approximately 95 attendees if we were clouded out? 

Will they be satisfied with Santa Fe Baldy?
Courtesy EarthSky.Org

Fortunately, we never lost the Dipper’s handle, Arcturus, and Spica. While Sam and Brad focused on Mizar and Alcor as a double star system (and told the apocryphal story of the pair as an eye test administered to those joining the Roman Legion) , Robert gave a basic sky geography lesson with “arc to Arcturus and strike on to Spica!”. 

Remarkably enough, the clouds gave way to a dark, beautiful night sky, which the SFS was able to show-off (in the different ‘scopes) with the Beehive (M44), King Cobra (M67), the Leo Triplet (M65, M66, & NGC 3628), the Sombrero Galaxy (M104), and several Globular Clusters. 

The Leo Triplet Galaxies from VST Image Credit: ESO, INAF-VST, OmegaCAM; Acknowledgement: OmegaCen, Astro-WISE, Kapteyn I.

The event concluded at about 10:00 PM. By all measures our first outreach event was a success: the event attendees were excited by and appreciative of the opportunity to see the sights; Park Ranger Eric was very happy with our help; and – most importantly! – a good time was had by all. The Santa Fe Stargazer’s can look forward to partnering with the Park at future events. 

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