The Prescott Astronomy Club held the first “Starry Nights at Watson Lake” meeting of the year last week. The group met at the Upper Ramada at Watson Lake Park soon after sundown. Though it was cold, the club provided propane heaters and Cuppers provided hot cocoa to ward off the chill.
Approximately 70 people from age 7 to around 70 attended the almost-monthly meeting which offered a short lecture about winter constellations. Audience members were then invited to follow a red-light-lit trail (the color doesn’t interfere with star gazing) to a place where members had set up their telescopes. The sky was a little cloudy but the club members telescopes were still able to show a spectacular close up view of the moon.
Denny Peeples, Prescott High Schools Aerospace Science Leadership Academy (ASLA) teacher was there with a few students. Peeples says he offers extra credit to students who participate in the “Starry Nights” program. The PHS program offers an Astronomy/ Space class so Peeples feels these presentations fit perfectly into his curicculm.
The Astronomy Club has an active calendar for 2008. The next “Starry Night at Watson Lake” will be on March 8th. The club has also scheduled monthly “Star Talks”. January 17th’s topic is “Deep Space Network Operations” where Harold Minuskin from the Jet Propulsion Labratory and Caltech will be speaking about photography through a telescope. On February 21st Dr. Michele Zanolin and Dr. Andri M. Gretarsson faculty members from the ERAU ERAU Physics Research Department will speak about “Gravitational Wave Sensing with LIGO. ”
The group also reaches out to students, and on April 16th at 2:30 is “After School Astronomy” at the Prescott Public Library. On May 9th they will have a “School and Scouts Camp Over” using the Northern Arizona University/NASA AIMER Lab. April 12th they will sponsor a “Telescope Tuneup” for all ages where the public can bring their own telescopes in for advice and alignments.