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Plan to visit the stars Saturday

June 20, 2011

Amateur astronomers and local residents will get a chance to turn their sights toward the heavens Saturday as officials with the Big Spring State Park prepare for their annual Stargazing Party atop the local landmark.
“Sunset is approximately 9 p.m. and there will be a program as soon as it gets dark enough to see the projection, which is usually between 9:20 and 9:30 p.m.,” said Park Manager Ron Alton. “I'm going to ask the astronomy club members to bone up on their constellations so we can point some of them out.”
Slated for 8:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. near the park office at the top of Scenic Mountain, the program will offer something for everyone in the family, according to Alton.
“It’s one of the bigger events of the year for us,” said Alton. “It’s a fun and educational way to spend a Saturday night outdoors with your family. You can take a tour of the night sky with area amateur astronomy clubs.
“It’s a great chance for families to spend some quality time together, as well. It doesn’t matter how old you are, seeing the stars and the different heavenly bodies through a telescope is just amazing.”
Alton said the West Texas Amateur Astronomy Club from Midland will provide several high-powered telescopes for those attending to get a better look at the heavens.
“They’ve been really great in helping us put the stargazing event on each year,” said Alton. “They really love doing this. Most people who are into astronomy love to teach others about it, so there will be plenty of knowledgeable people to answer questions during the presentation.”
Alton said the Stargazing Party is a great chance for area residents to learn about astronomy, but it also serves an important purpose when the state of Texas begins looking at the park's budget.
“We invite everyone to come out,” said Alton. “These events keep the state park finances going, especially in these times when budgets are being even more closely examined than in previous times. The state looks at attendance at these types of events when they decide how much to allocate, so participating is very important.
“If the weather doesn’t cooperate with us — we have too many clouds or it rains — we’ll reschedule the Stargazing for July,” he added.
Alton said no admission will be charged for the stargazing, but donations will be accepted. The facility is located at No. 1 Scenic Drive, just off FM 700 near Wasson Road. For more information about the stargazing event, contact Alton at 263-4931.

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