GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Since the dawn of time, people from all cultures have gazed toward the heavens, wondering at the sparkling splendor. And on a good night with no clouds, these pinpoints of light glimmer like diamonds on black velvet. Significant social and scientific impacts have been inspired by Mother Earth's nighttime skyscape, too - ancient mythology and its connection to pagan religion, the creation of the calendar and marked passage of time, man setting foot on the moon and traveling to other planets, and current sci-fi entertainment (as seen on many popular TV shows and movies).To learn more about the surrounding universe, join up with this local stargazing event, "M42: The Orion Nebula & Jupiter," put on by local enthusiasts. It's set for Saturday, March 30, at the Colorado National Monument. The gathering will start at dusk, and, weather permitting, guests will be able to view "planets, springtime galaxies, star forming nebulae, and clusters," a news release said. "It could be cool in early spring, so bring a blanket and some hot drinks. Meet in the Saddlehorn picnic area parking lot just after sunset."According to Colorado Mesa University's Assistant Professor of Physics Dr. Jared Workman, gatherings like this one have been hosted at the Colorado National Monument for "at least a decade or two." It's run by members of the Western Colorado Astronomy Club, and they put on public events monthly from March to October."When the sun goes down, you'll get 10 or so members coming out with their own telescopes," Workman said, who also noted that some CMU students will be in attendance. "It's completely open to anyone with an interest."Workman added that "at this time of year, you'll be looking at (the planet) Jupiter, the Orion Nebula - a large star forming region, and the Andromeda Galaxy."The event will last about two hours.Registration isn't required, and it's free to participate. There may, however, be a $10 entrance fee per vehicle to the Colorado National Monument (or simply use your annual pass).Visit www.wcacastronomy.org for more information.
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