Jimmy Westlake: Yampa River Star Party this Saturday | SteamboatToday.com

Jimmy Westlake: Yampa River Star Party this Saturday

Jimmy Westlake

This group of astronomy enthusiasts gathered for the Stagecoach Star Party on Friday evening at Stagecoach State Park. Colorado Mountain College astronomy professor Jimmy Westlake, far left, hosted the event, which featured telescopic views of the planets Mars and Saturn. Professor Westlake will host another stargazing event at the Yampa River State Park campground at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

— On Friday night, out at Stagecoach State Park, approximately 60 astronomy buffs from around the community joined me for the Stagecoach Star Party. Visitors got to view Mars and Saturn through a telescope and learned about a dozen constellations of the summer sky.

Many folks brought their own telescopes to share with the crowd. We all even had the opportunity to wave to astronaut Steven Swanson as he sailed overhead in the International Space Station. Thanks to all who came out to support this great event.

If you wanted to attend the Stagecoach Star Party but were unable to for whatever reason, I have some good news. On Saturday evening, I will conduct a second summer stargazing event out at the Yampa River State Park campground, 3 miles west of Hayden on U.S. Highway 40, beginning at 9:30 p.m. This will be my first Yampa River Star Party event, and I am very excited about it.

Do you own a homemade or commercial telescope and enjoy sharing celestial sights with other folks? Then come on down to the banks of the beautiful Yampa River on Saturday night and set up your 'scope for some shared public viewing.

Do you have a telescope that is gathering dust and cobwebs in the attic because you aren't sure how to use it or maybe it is missing a piece? Then bring it on down to the Star Party and I or someone else will help you get it operational.

Do you not own a telescope but would love the opportunity to see the rings of Saturn for yourself? Then the Yampa River Star Party is for you, too.

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When the sun goes down Saturday night and the stars pop out, we hope to have lots of different kinds and sizes of telescopes aimed skyward for all to peep through. The planets Mars and Saturn will shine bright and be placed perfectly for viewing. I will be your host and will provide a guided tour of the summer sky.

The Yampa River Star Party is free and appropriate for all ages, though park officials remind visitors that a valid annual state parks pass or daily pass is required on all vehicles. Daily passes will be available on site.

Besides your favorite telescope, I would recommend bringing along a camp chair or two, some insect repellant, a small red-filtered flashlight and a warm jacket for the cool night air after sundown.

To get to the Yampa River State Park campground from Steamboat Springs, take U.S. 40 west to Hayden. Continue on U.S. 40 another 3 miles west of Hayden and turn left into the campground. The Star Party will be held at the group picnic area in the heart of the campground. We'll start the stargazing at 9:30 p.m.

I hope to see you there!

Professor Jimmy Westlake teaches astronomy and physics at Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus. His “Celestial News” column appears weekly in the Steamboat Today newspaper and his “Cosmic Moment” radio spots can be heard on local radio station KFMU. Check out Westlake’s astrophotography website at http://www.jwestlake.com.

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