Spend your summer under the stars
The summer is my favorite time to stargaze. The winter may offer crisp, clear nights and stunning constellations like Orion and the Pleiades, but in the summer the Milky Way arcs overhead, meteor showers stripe the sky and the balmy temperatures mean all you need is a light jacket to step outside and look up. From observatory open house nights to astronomy programs in Rocky Mountain National Park, here are four opportunities to spend your summer under the stars.
Open House Nights at the Sommers-Bausch Observatory, University of Colorado
Where: 2475 Kittredge Loop Dr., Boulder, CO 80309
When: Friday nights (weather permitting) at 9 pm
Join the graduate students of CU’s Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences Department on Friday nights out on the deck of the Sommers-Bausch Observatory as they host evenings of stargazing. Open House Nights are always fun, low-key affairs, and the students and volunteers are happy to answer questions. Best of all, the observatory has access to a variety of telescopes and binoculars, all of which offer impressive views of the planets and stars.
Public Nights at the Chamberlin Observatory, University of Denver
Where: 2930 East Warren Ave., Denver, CO 80210
When: Tuesday and Thursday nights at 8:30 pm
Cost: $4 adults, $3 children (tickets benefit Denver Astronomical Society)
For over 60 years, the Denver Astronomical Society has hosted public nights at the Chamberlin Observatory on DU’s campus. Evenings start with a presentation by a DAS lecturer before proceeding into the dome that houses Chamberlin’s historic 20-inch refracting telescope. I caught my first glimpse of Saturn through this scope, and it’s an experience I’ve never forgotten. You have to buy your tickets for public nights in advance, but the good news is, even if you happen to come on a rainy or cloudy night, the DAS offers an observatory tour.
Astronomy Programs at Rocky Mountain National Park
Where: 1000 US Hwy 36, Estes Park, CO 80517
When: Visit: https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/astronomy_programs.htm for days and times
Cost: Free, though entrance fees to the park apply
Rocky Mountain National Park offers a variety of astronomy programs throughout the summer; the two most prominent are Astronomy in the Park, which is hosted at the Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead on July 6th and 13th starting at 8:30 pm, and the Rocky Mountain National Night Sky Festival, a three-day event with speakers, programs, along with day- and night-observing. The best part about stargazing in Rocky Mountain National Park are the dark skies; away from the light pollution of metropolitan Denver, stars, nebulae and galaxies that were invisible from your backyard rise in the sky with sharp, breathtaking clarity.
Perseid Meteor Shower
When: Peak nights, August 11-13
Cost: The sky is free to everyone
A meteor shower is one of the most sublime astronomical events you can witness, and the Perseids, which always peak in early- to mid-August, are one of the most impressive meteor showers of all. This year will feature especially favorable conditions because the moon will set before the shower starts in earnest. Although you can watch the Perseids from just about anywhere – I once had some pretty great luck at a public park only about a mile from my house – a meteor shower is even more extraordinary if you can get away from light-polluted skies; try somewhere rural out on the eastern plains, or up in the mountains, and hope for a cloudless night. You’ll see the most meteors after midnight, so find a spot, set up a beach lounger or a picnic blanket and look up. You won’t regret it.
And while Anythink's telescope is currently under repair, we still have plenty of resources to get you started on your summer stargazing.