Thursday, Jul 16, 2009
On June 27th, the park and the National Parks Conservation Association hosted a star party at the Great Basin Visitor Center. With the aid of 22 telescopes and numerous amateur and professional astronomers, a large crowd was able to see the moon, planets, stars, and constellations as they had never seen them before.
Due to the darkness, the park staff could only estimate that 250 to 300 visitors were treated to an amazing display of celestial sightings. The Milky Way was arrayed across the heavens, while nebula and star clusters shone their brightest in the cool night air. Some of the telescopes were so large that they had to be brought to the party by trailer, while new technologies and laser pointers offered pinpoint accuracy of distant lights.
The moon set at about 11 p.m. and as the skies revealed their mysteries, the viewers, both young and old, were offered a viewing opportunity that no one will soon forget. This was the first of what is intended to be an annual event offered by the park and NPCA. The event drew astronomers and visitors form Reno, San Diego, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
Great Basin has some of the very darkest night skies in United Sates. Of course, the same distance from any metropolitan center that allows access to dark skies also adds to the time required in travel to the park. Reno is seven hours away, Las Vegas five, and Salt Lake City is four hours distant. Yet the wide-open spaces, combined with the dark skies, make Baker an outstanding destination.
The next star party, just in case you are interested, will be on July 25th and 26th.