Stargazers flock to Lowell
Flagstaff residents were able to take a closer look at the dazzling celestial features that adorn the northern Arizona night sky this past Friday and Saturday night at the Thanksgiving Star Fest. Lowell Observatory hosted the viewing to celebrate Thanksgiving and share all the astrology the night sky has to offer.
The Thanksgiving Star Fest featured various astrological activities and allowed visitors to peer through numerous telescopes set up around the observatory. Volunteers and educators helped guests locate certain stars, planets and constellations in the vast night sky.
Leeta Slama, transaction coordinator for California Lifestyle Realty in La Quinta, said everyone involved in the event was friendly and that she was able to witness some truly amazing sights.
“The educators were very informed and friendly; they made sure everyone got a chance to see through the telescope,” Slama said. “We got to see Jupiter with the red ring, Andromeda and star clusters. It was really cool to actually be able to see the stars and rings up close.”
Among the attendees were people from Phoenix seeking a true stargazing experience.
Olga Lykhvar, an ASU graduate student, said she decided to visit Lowell Observatory because of the lack of star visibility in Phoenix.
“I came here from Phoenix because we don’t have stars there,” Lykhyar said. “I’m really glad I came tonight, because one of Lowell’s educators told me that the conditions tonight were rare; it’s very uncommon to be able to see Jupiter and its moons as clearly as we did tonight.”
The Lowell Observatory houses several state-of-the-art exhibits that give guests the opportunity to get even closer to outer space. They offer a half-hour multimedia show titled “Heavy Astronomy: Marvels of the Cosmos,” along with an interactive planetarium that allows visitors to virtually soar across the galaxy. In addition, Lowell’s staff provides daily guided tours that present a detailed overview of the observatory’s rich history.
Eric MacLennan, a junior physics and astronomy major and observatory volunteer, said he enjoys sharing his astrological knowledge with visitors and seeing them get excited when staring up into the sky.
“This is an exciting part of the year because there’s a lot to see in the winter sky,” MacLennan said. “I’ve been into this since I was a kid. I do this because I like looking through telescopes and telling people about space; I like sharing the stuff that got me into astronomy. I like seeing what others think of astronomy and what they are interested in through the questions that they ask.”
MacLennan said the Thanksgiving Star Fest garnered bigger crowds than normal because stargazing is a great thing to do with the family.
“This weekend was particularly great because we got a lot more people in than we usually do at this time of year,” MacLennan said. “Bringing people up here was a great change this year because it gave people things to do with their family and educated more people than usual. We usually don’t get this many people because of the cold.”
Sheryle Smith, a nurse from Portland, said she enjoyed the experience of visiting the Lowell Observatory.
“I’ve always wanted to come here, so I’m glad I stopped by,” Smith said. “I learned a lot. The displays are a little aged, but the info is good. It was a pleasure to come here because this is one of the most famous observatories on Earth.”