- Written by Kim Sharpe Kim Sharpe
And light up your family nights
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are…
These words are familiar as a nursery rhyme, but they also hold a lot of truth. Humans have been fascinated by the heavens since the beginning of time.
Today, from casual observations to serious inquiries, astronomy remains a fun and educational pursuit for young and old alike.
"Skygazing gives people an appreciation for the physical processes, scale and jaw-dropping beauty of the universe," says Greg Halac, vice president of the Northern Colorado Astronomical Society (NCAS). "Most of us find it simultaneously mind-boggling and humbling."
Halac adds that kids (depending on age), enjoy astronomy as much as adults. "Skygazing tends to be most rewarding for children at least 5 years old, although kids as young as about 3 can usually observe the moon. At 5 to 7, kids can usually observe planets in a telescope. By age 8, kids can usually appreciate star clusters, galaxies and nebulae."
A simple way to get involved in astronomy is to go outside on a cloudless night and look up. If you can get to a location away from city lights, like in the mountains, you'll be amazed at all the stars you can see. Halac says, "Binoculars, a good sky map, and trips to dark sky sites make a great introduction to skygazing."
Plus, there are quality websites and apps where you can learn about planets, stars and other things that are out of this world. Halac recommends Sky and Telescope (www.skyandtelescope.com), The Evening Sky Map (http://skymap.com) and Heavens Above (http://heavens-above.com). Popular free apps include Sky Map, Sky View, Night Sky and Star Walk.
Kids usually get an introduction to astronomy in their science classes, but people of all ages can gain a bit of knowledge about the heavens above by attending a NCAS event. Check the organization's website for events, including times and locations: www.nocoastro.org.
Where to go to gaze
Friday, April 20, 8:30-10pm
NCAS volunteers will provide telescopes and share their knowledge about stars, planets, galaxies, more. Dress warmly and bring a blanket or chair to sit on.
Free, but registration required: https://engage.fcgov.com/d/na
Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area, 3340 Carpenter Rd., FC.
- The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery OtterBox Digital Dome Theater can run in planetarium mode – www.fcmod.org
- The Fiske Planetarium at CU Boulder - www.colorado.edu/fiske/
- The Gates Planetarium at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, www.dmns.org/planetarium/
Observatories – public viewing held weather permitting
- Sunlight Peak Observatory - Open to the public on the 1st Friday of each month.Front Range Community College, 4616 S. Shields St., FC. www.facebook.com/sunlightpeak/
- The Stargazer Observatory - Public viewing the 3rd Saturday of each month. Observatory Village, 3733 Galileo Dr., FC. www.stargazerobservatory.com
- Little Thompson Observatory - Public nights on the 3rd Friday of each month. Berthoud High School, east grounds, 820 Spartan Ave., Berthoud. www.starkids.org