Central Oregon is fortunate to have beautiful clear skies over 300 days of the year. From your cabin patio at FivePine, you can sit back and enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature and see an endless amount of stars.
A few weeks ago, just after sunset I saw a particularly bright star wandering around near the moon, and I wondered what it was. The moon itself was a waning sliver of light at the time, just about to enter its “new” phase. Realizing that a new moon means no moon, and no moon means very sparkly stars, I remembered that the Sisters Astronomy Club would soon be hosting its public stargazing program at the high school soccer field. A visit to people with telescopes could probably answer my curiosity over the wandering star.
The program started at 8:30pm, in the Sisters Parks and Recreation building (SPRD) near the high school. There was a lecture and open discussion about “trans-Neptunian objects” and about what we would be seeing that night. Around 9:15 pm, we walked out to the field where several telescopes had already been set up.
I gravitated first to the telescope that was pointed at the bright star I’d been seeing. It turned out it was Venus, which makes sense because planets are the only celestial bodies that wander in our skies (aside from the moon). In the telescope, Venus was only a half-moon shape, because of its current position relative to the sun. Imagine how bright it would be in full position!
After Venus, I stood in line quite a while at the telescope focused on Saturn. It was worth the wait, as I got to see that planet in a position I’d never seen before – at a slight tilt as if to show off its rings. It was so beautiful and iconic an image, it was hard to believe it was real. To the naked eye, Saturn is just a point of light among a billion lights, but in the telescopic eye-piece it is a special work of art.
Other sights that evening included Mars, fuzzy star clusters, distant nebulae, and some rather local phenomena like satellites and meteors. The program ended whenever the watchers had seen all they cared to see, or when they got too chilly – whichever came first.
The Sisters Astronomy Club hosts this star watch, named “Stars over Sisters,” on these upcoming dates in 2012. All programs start in Room 1 of the Sisters Parks and Recreation building on the far side of the high school parking lot.
Friday May 11th, 8:30pm
Saturday May 19th, 8:30pm
Friday July 20th, 9:00pm
Friday August 17th, 8:30pm
Friday September 14th, 8:00pm