San Juan Stargazers to study Abell 2218


By Joan Mieritz

Special to The PREVIEW

The San Juan Stargazers’ regular monthly meeting is scheduled on Thanksgiving, so this month we will meet on Thursday, Nov. 21, in the Visitor Center conference room located at 105 Hot Springs Blvd. The meeting is from 7 to 8:30 p.m. sharp. Hot drinks will be served during the meeting because another group is using the conference room until 7 p.m. Be prepared to make a smooth transition.

This month, there will be two parts to our meeting. First, we will be discussing the wonderful StarLab — a portable planetarium that Anita Hinger, science teacher at Pagosa Springs Middle School, has been gathering money to benefit all 1,636 students of our school district. She is over halfway to the $50,000 that is needed to get this outstanding multifunctional science equipment which includes programs in addition to astronomy, for weather, plate tectonics, geology and other areas. A decision needs to be made as to the amount our club will contribute.

Then we will have a regular program from the series that we have been studying for two years, called “Experiencing Hubble: Understanding the Greatest Images of the Universe.” It includes a written lesson and a video lecture by Professor David Meyer of Northwestern University. A gravitational lens is not a common concept, so it is guaranteed that you will learn something new and totally amazing. The lesson is called “Abell 2218 — A Massive Gravitational Lens.” One of the most fascinating phenomena in the night sky with a powerful telescope is a gravitational lens. It was predicted by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The most spectacular cases of gravitational lensing involve distant rich clusters of galaxies. The Hubble image of the rich galaxy cluster Abell 2218 is 2 billion light years away and reveals about 80 bright cluster galaxies and more than 100 background galaxies. Just think how brilliant you will sound at your Thanksgiving dinner table trying to explain this to friends and family.

Remember that new people are always welcome at our meetings and this is a lesson you will not want to miss. It is wonderful how a lesson can seem complex and difficult, but when explained by Meyer with diagrams and other aids, it becomes reasonable and within our grasp.

We are again selling our fabulous Astronomy Magazine Deep Space Mysteries 2020 calendar. There are photos of several classic galaxies, nebulae, a stellar nursery, a young star cluster, a galaxy cluster, a supernova remnant and the very famous Orion Nebula photo that in itself makes it worth getting the calendar. The cost is $13 and is a fundraiser for our scholarship fund. Every day there is a notation of significant sky events and phases of the moon. Each photo has a detailed explanation to help you painlessly learn the basics of astronomy, so it is perfect for any student.

It is much easier this year to pick up a copy at the Visitor Center. Both Hillary and Rick can help you, but get yours soon before they sell out. They are perfect to mail since they are unbreakable and they give the message every day throughout the year that you cared enough to send such an amazing gift.

The San Juan Stargazers are part of the Astronomical League, which includes clubs from all over the U.S. We have a new website,, as well as an email address,, and a club phone number, 335-8286.

We welcome everyone who has an interest in learning more about our amazing universe.