San Juan Stargazers make scheduling changes due to moon’s location in 2023


By Joan Mieritz | San Juan Stargazers

If your life doesn’t have enough surprises, you might want to start studying astronomy. We just found out that the schedules we have been using for years need to be changed this year. 

We will begin making these changes between January and February for our regular club events and then again when we write our summer schedule for our events at Chimney Rock. I could have just made the changes, but I think it is fun to share the explanation that it is because of the timing of the full moon and new moon (which always begins as no visible moon).

In January, we have three events planned. Our regular monthly meeting will be on Thursday, Jan. 26, held at the Community United Methodist Church. Coffee and social time will start at 6 p.m. During this time, people can also read club copies of Astronomy Magazine and Sky and Telescope Magazine, and look at interesting books and notebooks, etc. 

Also, I want to add a quick comment that club members always receive a substantial discount on subscriptions to both magazines, especially for multiyear orders. You need our club number, which is at the top of our membership list.

There are several topics for January’s program. We will be studying Messier objects, which basically are the best 120 deep-sky objects visible in the night sky, including other galaxies, star clusters, nebula, etc. I have purchased copies of the booklet called “Messier Objects — A Beginner’s Guide” by Kathy Machin and Sue Wheatley. It is published by the Astronomical League and is considered the best Messier guide available. If you already have a copy, please bring it with you. We will be reviewing how to use it so that by this summer, it will seem like an easy comic book and the Messier objects will become your favorite things to show off after your grandchildren. 

We will also be discussing changes that will be made to the Night Sky programs at Chimney Rock this summer. COVID-allowing, we will have telescopes at all our Night Sky programs like we used to. We will do some serious brain-storming. Come with your best and craziest ideas. It is an amazing opportunity to be able to change and improve these programs.

We will also be discussing our latest star parties to create a protocol for star parties. We will be setting up two committees for special projects. The Forest Service is working to get Dark Sky designation for Chimney Rock. If you would like to help, tell Joan. It is a very important accomplishment and more help is needed. 

The other events for January will be two star parties. On Friday, Jan. 20, we will have our first Deep Sky event at our Meadows East home. We will be using our new Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope which we put together and used for the first time on Dec. 22, 2022. Dr. Andy Green, our professional astronomer member, will be showing off Messier objects in the Northern Hemisphere which he hasn’t seen himself in a long time.

The second star party will be on Jan. 28 at our Meadows West home. It will be a night of looking at the moon. It seems like we haven’t seen the moon in a very long time (since before COVID). New members have not taken an amazing “hike on the Moon.” We will also see how many planets are visible.

To know the location of our star parties, you will need to call (720) 626-9304 to leave your name and number. Someone will return your call. If you are not a club member, we may need to get additional information. If you have your telescope to set up, you can arrive about 6 p.m. We provide water, coffee, tea, cider and hot chocolate. If you want to bring food to share, please do. You can also bring your own drinks. Come anytime after 6 p.m., but please be careful with your headlights if you come later so as not to destroy our night vision. Hopefully, one of the early arrivals can help others to park.

In February, our club meeting will be on Feb. 2 at the Methodist Church,with coffee at 6 p.m. and the program at 7 p.m. On Feb. 17, there will be a Deep Sky Star Party at our Meadows West location, using our standard star party protocol. Call (720) 626-9304 for the location. There will be a special James Webb Telescope Discoveries Study on Feb. 23 at the Methodist Church starting at 6 p.m.

In March, our monthly meeting will be on March 2 with two star parties, Deep Sky on March 17, and Our Solar System on March 28. 

You can join the San Juan Stargazers at any of our meetings or events. We are part of the National Astronomical League, which includes over 20,000 members. Expand your life to include the universe.