It’s Old Bill’s Time!

It’s Old Bill’s Time!

There are less then two weeks left in the Old Bill’s fundraising period. Wyoming Stargazing needs your support in order for us to continue our Save Our Night Skies Campaign to reduce light pollution, to launch our Science Speaker Series, and to offer all the FREE public astronomy programming we facilitate in Jackson Hole. If you’ve attended one of our events please consider making a contribution that will get matched through Old Bill’s. Click here to make a donation now!

“Your Next Trip? It’s Written in the Stars”

Wyoming Stargazing was featured in a NY Times article today about stargazing in the western hemisphere. Astrotourism is a rapidly growing industry and Wyoming Stargazing is honored to be a big part of sharing the Cosmos with the public. Read more…

100 Days Until Totality! 47 Days Left – How is the Town of Jackson Preparing?

This August, an unprecedented number of people will observe the Total Solar Eclipse. The last time the United States observed totality was on March 7, 1970, and it was only visible from a few states on the East Coast. Millions of people live in the path of totality of this year’s eclipse, and the entire population of the 48 continental states will observe a partial eclipse on August 21st. With so many people wanting to observe the eclipse, how are the towns in the path of totality preparing?

The Town of Jackson has been preparing tirelessly since 2015. The police and EMS are bringing in extra highway patrol officers and emergency services, and are keeping careful track of all of the large events happening in the valley. Through the hard work of the town’s Eclipse Event Coordinator, Jackson’s EMS services, and their teams and employees, the Town of Jackson has created www.tetoneclipse.com, a highly comprehensive website with important information for both locals and visitors. Wyoming Stargazing has been assisting the town in spreading awareness by holding free monthly presentations with Jackson’s EMS coordinator. To find out when and where the next presentation is, visit our Public Astronomy Programs page, and check out our calendar at the bottom.

Preparedness and awareness go hand in hand! The town of Jackson would like all of its residents to be aware of the number of guests joining us for the eclipse, and to welcome them for a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event. Local restaurants should consider stocking more food and beverages for eclipse week. Gas stations should make sure their tanks are full. Visitors and residents alike should have a back stock of food, water, and gasoline. The most important task, though, is to GET EXCITED! Some consider total solar eclipses the most beautiful celestial event visible with the naked eye!

Join Us for a Party with the Perseids

Perseid Meteor Shower

Both town and county voted in our revised LDRs! We’re now one step closer to becoming a Dark Sky Certified community! Look for a future blog post to see what that means and what the next steps are.

But in the meantime, it’s time for a celebration!

Party with the Perseids!

When: Thursday, August 11th, 8pm – late
Where: Rendezvous Park (R-Park)

Rendezvous Land Conservancy and Wyoming Stargazing are teaming up this August to offer you an extraordinary free public event filled with great food, drinks, live music, games, and of course stargazing. Come on out to R-Park for some fun, family-friendly time and stick around for one of the best meteor showers of the year…the Perseids!

Pica’s will be providing chips, salsa, guacamole, quesadillas, and half-priced margaritas!

Elevated Grounds will be providing hot chocolate and coffee!

Snake River Brewery will be there too with their classic beers!

Elevated Grounds
Pica's Mexican Taqueria
Snake River Brewery

We’ll have Rob and Tasha to serenade you as the sun goes down and plenty of yard games to pass the time. As the stars come out we’ll have several telescopes set up around R-Park to show you the cloud bands of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, and possibly even the polar ice caps of Mars. We’ll also show you incredible details on the waxing gibbous moon. Later on we’ll show you star clusters, nebulae, and of course a few galaxies. We should begin seeing the first meteors of the evening as the sky darkens at about 9pm. We’ll see more meteors as the evening progresses. And if you stick around until after the Moon sets at about 12:30am, then the real Perseid Meteor shower begins and it’s one of the best meteor showers of the year.

About This Year’s Perseid Meteor Shower

This year, even with the Moon, we should be able to see about 1 meteor/min. Most of them will appear to radiate from the NE part of the sky near the constellation Perseus, but others will appear in other parts of the sky. This meteor shower, like all meteor shows, is produced by the Earth moving through a debris field in space left there by a comet. In this case, it’s comet Swift-Tuttle that was discovered in 1862.

Please bring a lawn chair and/or blanket to help you enjoy the evening, the food, the drinks, the games, and the meteors!

No need to RSVP – Just show up and join in on the fun!

Dodging a Catastrophe at Shooting Star

Over the weekend we hosted a stargazing program at the Shooting Star Golf Club at Teton Village. What was expected to be a routine stargazing program for a large group nearly had a disastrous impact on our equipment.

Sam got underway running an indoor program to kickoff the night for the 60 or so people in attendance for stargazing just as I had come back in from putting on the final touches at the viewing area nearby. The indoor program was expected to take roughly 45 minutes or so to get people excited for the night sky as it got dark enough to view deep space objects. The crowd seemed generally receptive to the program, with plenty of Q&A, and after about an hour, we all headed outside to the driving range to see in person much of what they had just learned.

Sam and I both began aligning the two different scopes we had out and soon had people looking at the half-moon up close. By this time however, the temperature was beginning to drop a little too much to be comfortable for some people, despite the blankets we had out. After a quick glimpse of the moon, some chose to end the night there.

For those who stayed, we had a great look at Saturn next, but with the low expected to be in the mid-30s overnight, the night air was quickly approaching its target, which was too much for most people. Though blown away by seeing Saturn, the majority of people had left after seeing it. At this point, Sam and I both got our scopes aligned to the Ring Nebula which fascinated the people that were still out, but not even that was enough to entice people to stay out longer.

As the last people made their way from the driving range, we began our routine of systematically taking down the scopes and gear that was out. Sam began unplugging his scope while I began turning off the iPads that we use to let people browse the night sky digitally when they’re not looking through a scope. We were making our usual slow progress when a very unsettling sound brought our attention to the hole across the path: two sprinklers had just automatically turned on. "Uh-oh" was about all that was muttered before we ran to the most expensive gear out there to begin breaking it down. Even just a quick pass from one sprinkler would be enough to cause significant damage to our most expensive gear. We had no clue where the sprinklers were or how many were expected to go off, all we knew is we needed to get everything safe immediately. I was taking down our 20" scope, our pride and joy, faster than I ever had, knowing we were now engaged in a race against the automatic sprinkler system. There were two Shooting Star staffers with us as well, one helping to move things to safety, another frantically making calls asking why the sprinklers were on.

Of course we weren’t sure if the sprinklers at the driving range would even turn on, but seeing them across the path was enough warning. But then, on the driving range just a few dozen yards away, two sprinklers came on, just out of reach of us. They were coming, and all we knew was that our time was limited. By now I had the 20" mostly broken down and I wheeled it to safety to the path where there was a large dry section. On my way back, a sprinkler began spouting practically right where the 20" was. I immediately became soaked as I scrambled to get things out of the way: iPads; telescope gear; a battery for the scope that was still out on a table. In my own rushed pace I lost track of what the others were doing, but a few minutes later, all of us regrouped and were dripping with water from saving what we could in a safe(r) spot.

Appearing to be out of harm’s way, we evaluated what got wet and what was kept safe, and aside from one telescope battery, the things that got wet were simply chairs, tables, and blankets. Fortunately, our instincts helped us keep everything simply couldn’t get wet safe, and we were back up and running the next night after letting everything dry out in the sun. Earlier in the night Sam had remarked how much earlier it was than he was expecting to finish. That definitely worked in our favor that night.

AmazonSmile

Hello Fellow Supporters of Wyoming Stargazing!

Financially supporting Wyoming Stargazing just got even easier and free!

All you have to do is make all your future Amazon.com purchases from AmazonSmile.  It’s the same Amazon.com that you know and love, but each time you make a purchase from AmazonSmile, Amazon will give Wyoming Stargazing %0.5 of the total purchase amount.  I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it is adds up fast.  

Just click on the following link to get started with supporting Wyoming Stargazing though Smile.Amazon.com: http://smile.amazon.com/ch/46-3183809 

Thanks and Clear Skies!

Save Our Night Skies Campaign Kick-off Event

Preserving the Night Skies of Jackson HoleWyoming Stargazing is hosting a kick-off event for the Save Our Night Skies Campaign on Thursday, February 19th, beginning at 5:30pm at the Center for the Arts.  This event is part of a larger art show at the Center that is being co-sponsored by the Center of Wonder and Wyoming Stargazing. This Upyard Art Show will highlight the artwork of about a dozen local artists whose work depicts our Upyard, as opposed to our backyard, during the day time and night.  

We are also going to have several local artists, including preschool kids from the Children’s Learning Center and Carrie Wild, each paint a Dobsonian telescopes with either a 6″ and 8″ primary mirror.  Those fully-functional telescopes will be auctioned off with a silent auction during the Opening Night of the Upyard Art Show, also on Thursday, February 19th. The total auction price of each telescope will be split 50/50 between the artists and Wyoming Stargazing.

We’ll also have our Board Member Mike Cavaroc there to show and talk about his documentary film about the night skies over Jackson.  There will be a table with plenty of information about light pollution in Jackson and about how you can get involved with our efforts to reduce it.

After the telescope auction, as long as the weather cooperates, we’ll go outside for some stargazing.

The Center of Wonder and Wyoming Stargazing will be providing hors d’oeuvres and wine.  So, please join us for some food and drink, some amazing artwork, a chance to bid on a beautiful telescope, and to view the night sky through our new telescope with a 20″ primary mirror!  No need to RSVP.

2017 Total Solar Eclipse in Jackson Hole

If you haven’t already heard the word on the street, starting at about 10:16am directly above Jackson, Wyoming on Monday, August 21st 2017 we’re going to have a total solar eclipse. I know it’s still two and a half years away, but that hasn’t stopped people from all over the world from booking hotels in Jackson for that week. I’ve personally received inquiries from England, Belgium, and the Netherlands, not to mention another dozen or so from folks all over the US. So, if you’re planning on coming to Jackson for the eclipse book your hotel soon because they are filling up fast!

Although there are lost of places around the continental US from which to view the eclipse, Jackson is poised to be one of the best. I mean, come on, where else can you go to see a total solar eclipse with a bald eagle flying over head, bison grazing in the foreground, 13,000 ft peaks behind you, grizzly bear, moose, and elk frolicking off to the side, and the howl of a wolf in the distance. Well, maybe not all of those critters at the same moment, but you get the idea.

The charismatic mega fauna aside, seeing the total solar eclipse is really the once in a lifetime opportunity. To help you out, Wyoming Stargazing has set up a new page on our website with all the information you’ll need to keep track of. The URL for that page is:

http://www.wyomingstargazing.org/2017-solar-eclipse/

It’s under our Programs link in the main menu on the homepage.

We hope to see you in Jackson on August 2017!

Clear Skies,

Samuel

How to Find Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy

If you’re looking for a New Year’s miracle in astronomy, Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) is about the closest thing to it. Discovered back in August, the comet was never supposed to achieve naked-eye visibility, but it already has! It will continue to brighten when it’s expected to peak some time around January 7th where it will be near Rigel and the Orion constellation. As of this writing, it’s currently on its way out of Lepus and heading higher and higher into the night sky.

Sky And Telescope Lovejoy Map

Moonlight will distract from getting a perfectly clear viewing through early January as we reach a full moon on January 4th, but the moon will start setting later and later after that, making the second week in January ideal for watching the comet. Don’t get too discouraged now though! With a pair of binoculars aimed in the right direction, the comet can be easily found and viewed, and since it’s growing in brightness, it will get even easier to spot with the naked eye.

The comet was named after Terry Lovejoy from Australia who has found several comets in recent years. It was 4,000 dimmer than it is now when he first discovered it and its rotation around our sun takes roughly 11,500 years! Due to the planets’ effects on the comet, it’s expected to return in roughly 8,000 years.

Check out the great printable map from Sky & Telescope on the right to see exactly where to look. For more detail and information on the comet, you can also read their article on Comet Lovejoy.

A Wyoming Stargazing Tour Time-Lapse

Ever wondered what a Wyoming Stargazing tour would look like as a time-lapse? I used to also. Then I made the video below.

Back in September, the media went buzzing with the prospect of northern lights and how they were going to wow the socks off of the lower 48! They never showed up though. Not even the newsletter we sent out that day could coax the auroras down south (we tried). Hoping for a time-lapse of stargazing below the northern lights, I set my gear up and captured a time-lapse that night regardless. Early in the video, there is a faint pink glow on the northern horizon, but it fades fairly quickly. Toward the end, the landscape becomes lit up as the moon rises in the east. Throughout the video, you can see us making good use of our laser pointers as the occasional car drives by, also lighting up the landscape from the east.

The time-lapse on its own seemed like it needed some noise in the background, so I threw together a little track to go with it.

Free Stargazing Has Moved to the Center for the Arts

We’re excited to announce that our free, public stargazing events have moved to the Center for the Arts located in downtown Jackson. This move allows us to reach more people thanks to a more convenient location to both locals and tourists, as well as receiving support from the Center for the Arts itself.

In addition, this move also helps us to educate people on the threats that light pollution pose, which you will be hearing about much more from us as Wyoming Stargazing takes a more active stance in helping Jackson reclaim its night skies. To see what’s at stake, you can watch a short film on the subject on this blog post.

We’ll be meeting on the south side of the building (facing Snow King) on the lawn for the following dates throughout the winter:

  • December: 12th and 26th
  • January: 9th and 23rd
  • February: 13th and 27th
  • March: 13th and 27th
  • April: 10th and 24th

1,000 Stargazers!!!

Last night at the shores of Colter Bay Wyoming Stargazing reached our 1,000th stargazer!  In just five short months since we began our programming Wyoming Stargazing has gone from hosting one program a week to hosting on average five programs a week.  In additional to our night time stargazing events we are also hosting solar astronomy events at the Peoples’ Market at the base of Snow King every Wednesday evening from 4pm-7pm for the rest of the summer.  During those events we can show you sunspots and solar flares through our specialized solar telescopes.   We also host solar astronomy at the Colter Bay Visitor Center on select Tuesday afternoons this summer.  Check out our Calendar for details.  We hope to see you soon at one of our programs!