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Special program Saturday to view, learn about night sky over Navajo State Park

By Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Special to The SUN

The night sky glistens with stars in southwest Colorado, and a special astronomy program is being offered starting at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23, at Navajo State Park.

Astronomer John Buting, who has given presentations at national parks throughout the west, will present an informative talk about the stars, constellations and more. Telescopes will be available to allow for viewing of celestial objects.

The event is also part of Navajo State Park’s 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday. The celebration will feature an open house at the visitor center starting at noon.

The evening program will begin at 8 p.m. with a presentation about the astronomy of the native Navajo people, the original inhabitants of the area. Park naturalist Janet Marie Clawson-Cano will explain Navajo astronomy and constellations, and the hundreds of related rock-art panels that have been found in canyons in the area. Most of those panels, unfortunately, are now under the water of Navajo Reservoir.

At 9 p.m., Buting will begin his Navajo Dark Sky Program at the Arboles Point Campground. Buting is one of the national park system’s “Dark Rangers” and provides an educational and entertaining program. The sky over the state park area is very dark, which helps to provide a clear view of the Milky Way which stretches from horizon to horizon. A special treat for stargazers will be the rings of Saturn, which are shining very bright this summer. Buting will explain the origins of constellations and also talk about Navajo astronomy.

While telescopes will be available, those attending are also encouraged to bring their own.

“This will be a special evening at the park and everyone is invited to attend,” said Clawson-Cano.

The program is free. Entry to the park is $7 per vehicle and an annual pass costs $70.

Navajo State Park is a major recreational facility in southwest Colorado, drawing more than 300,000 visitors every year. The 2,100-acre park offers boating, fishing, trails and wildlife viewing.

For more information about Colorado’s state parks, go to cpw.state.co.us.

This story was posted on August 21, 2014.