Seen as a galactic smudge mark hanging in the eyepiece of telescopes the Andromeda Galaxy has more stars than grains of sand on the Earth, and every one of them (about 1 trillion for those of you counting) were illuminated in Arizona Science Center telescopes at Alamo Lake State Park on November 2nd.
For the second time in as many years, the Planetarium team endured frigid temperatures (frigid, at least, to those of us in the Valley) to help the Astronomers of Verde Valley show off the night sky for anyone curious enough to walk by.
In the pitch black site of Alamo Lake, a two hour drive from the lights of Phoenix, campers followed a path of glow sticks from telescope to telescope and peered inside the cosmos. In every ‘scope they found nebulae like the Ring and Blue Snowball Nebula, star clusters containing millions of stars, stellar nurseries, galaxies, binary stars, and, quite literally, an entire universe worth of objects. Campers circled around nine impressive telescopes (two from Arizona Science Center) and heard the stories of the skies. Exclamations of “Oh”, “Ah” and “holy moly” could be heard throughout the night.
Near the end of the night, Alamo Lake was struck with any astronomer’s worst fear: rain clouds. At first there was a warning sprinkle, but soon every telescope was rushed out from under the opening sky and the night ended with everyone listening to the patter of rain on their tents. But still, it wasn’t a bad way to end a night under the Milky Way.
While every night offers the chance to watch the universe unfold, Alamo Lake presents a wonderful opportunity to see the sky in its full glory. If you can’t make the drive, then Arizona Science Center will be glad to show you around the universe, anytime, inside the Dorrance Planetarium.