Oracle State Park Star Party
Posted: 19 January 2020
Oracle State Park remained open late for a Star Party on Saturday, 18 January 2020.
Early arrivals were able to participate in a special guided house tour, including a rare sneak peak tour through the Sister's Cottage. Here is Ranger Jennifer Rinio beginning the tour outside of the historic Kannally Ranch House.
The Saddlebrooke SkyGazers Club provided telescopes and interpretation of night sky objects for visitors. As the sun set the telescopes were set up.
One of the Park's residents, a Harris's Hawk, came to see what all the excitement was about. This is a view of the Hawk through one of the telescopes, taken with an iPhone.
As the sky darkened the first object viewed was the bright planet Venus in the western sky.
Visitors warmed up by the fire in the living room of the Ranch House and on the patio. The Friends of Oracle State Park provided hot cocoa and treats to entice visitors out on a cold night to appreciate the Park's spectacular winter sky.
As the sky became darker, visitors were thrilled by the stars overhead, the constellation of Orion, the Winter Milky Way, and the views of star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies through the nine telescopes that had been set up.
The International Space Station with six astronauts aboard passed over the Park. It is the bright streak passing Venus (top photo) and fading out as it passed into the Earth's shadow (bottom photo). (The other streaks are airplanes.)
The last of the Park's 50 visitors left about 8:30pm after an enjoyable night under the stars at Oracle State Park, the first Park in the Arizona State Parks & Trails system to be designated as an "International Dark Sky Park" by the International Dark-Sky Association.
Thanks to the Park Staff, the Saddlebrooke SkyGazers Club, and the Friends of Oracle State Park for providing another wonderful night at the Park.
For those interested, after the Star Party ended Ranger Rinio measured the night sky quality at SQM 21.22. High humidity was a factor in the slightly brighter sky than would otherwise have been measured.
All photos by Mike Weasner.
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