Celebrating the night sky at Colo. Nat’l Monument Aug. 2-3

Sharon Sullivan
A time exposure photograph during a Western Colorado Astronomy Club event showing the Milky Way overhead.
David Copley |


WHAT: Celebrate the Night Sky at Colorado National Monument

WHEN: Fri.-Sat., Aug. 2-3, 2-4 p.m. — view sunspots through a solar-filter-equipped telescope

Fri., Aug. 2, 8-10 p.m. — Two-mile night hike with a ranger (register at 970-858-3617)

Sat., Aug. 3, 7-7:45 p.m. — Evening ranger talk “while the evening light and shadow play across the canyons, cliffs, and valley below.”

Sat., twilight to 10:30 p.m. — Look through telescopes provided by Western Colorado Astronomy Club

WHERE: Saddlehorn picnic area between the campground and Visitor Center, four miles from the monument’s west entrance


Double stars, the Milky Way, the constellation Hercules — these are just a few of the objects that will be visible Saturday night when visitors and astronomy buffs peer through telescopes near the Colorado National Monument Visitor Center.

Friday, Aug. 2, a park ranger will lead a two-mile hike from 8-10 p.m. (To register, call 970-858-3617). If you go, be sure and wear sturdy walking shoes and bring a flashlight.

Both Friday and Saturday from 2-4 p.m., Western Colorado Astronomy Club member Hank Schoch will help visitors safely view sunspots by looking through a solar-filter-equipped telescope. A sunspot is a magnetic storm on the surface of the sun.

“They appear as dark spots — they’re actually much hotter than the illuminated part of the sun that we see,” Schoch said.

Over the course of several days, the dark spots will appear to slowly migrate across the surface of the sun, Schoch said.

When the sky is dark, astronomy club president Douglas Grodt will be there with other astronomers sharing their knowledge of the night sky.

“The constellation Sagittarius will be prominent that night,” Grodt said.

Plus, people will be able to clearly see the planets Saturn and Neptune, as well as star clusters.

Powerful telescopes will allow viewers to see individual stars “some yellow, some blue,” within star clusters of 1,000, Grodt said.

“We’ll be able to see whole galaxies, 50 million light years away,” Grodt said.

On Saturday, the telescopes will be set up between twilight and 10:30 p.m.

Also on Saturday, a ranger will meet visitors at the Bookcliffs View near the Saddlehorn Campground and picnic area for a ranger talk at 7 p.m.

Schoch, who is also a retired park ranger, said the club has held viewing events at the monument for many years. Typically, they draw approximately 60 people from the community and those who are staying in the campground.

“Last fall we had two daytime events — the passage of Venus in front of the Sun (a mini-eclipse) that won’t happen again for another 120 years or so,” Schoch said.

“A couple of weeks later there was the annual eclipse of the sun. It drew 260 people.”

The $10 entrance fee to the park is valid for seven days. People may want to attend the astronomy event, then return Sunday or later in the week for a hike, said Karla Tanner, CNM’s chief of interpretation & environmental education.

The Western Colorado Astronomy Club meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. in Room 161 of the Wubben Science building on the Colorado Mesa University campus. New members are welcome.

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