October 17 marks the debut of the Flagstaff Star Party, a community event celebrating Flagstaff’s dark skies and featuring more than one dozen telescopes for public viewing. The event runs from 6:30 to 10:00 p.m. at Buffalo Park.
Amateur and professional astronomers from the Flagstaff community will operate a variety of telescopes of many sizes, allowing guests to view star clusters, galaxies, nebulae, and much more. Sky experts will also point out constellations using green laser pointers.
The goal of the Flagstaff Star Party is to share Flagstaff’s world–renowned dark skies and demonstrate the beauty of this natural resource. Lowell Observatory Director Jeff Hall said, “This is the first of what we hope will become an expanded annual event recognized nationally.”
Host organizations include the Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition, Lowell Observatory, Coconino Astronomical Society, City of Flagstaff, NAU Physics & Astronomy Department, and the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station. Flagstaff City Manager Kevin Burke said, “The City of Flagstaff is pleased to support the Flagstaff Star Party and its overarching theme of demonstrating the importance of dark skies to Flagstaff’s culture, economy, and quality of life.”
Star party officials encourage guests to dress warmly and wear closed-toed shoes. In the event of poor weather, the star party may be rescheduled for the following evening, October 18. Changes will be posted at http://www.flagstaffdarkskies.org/flagstaff-star-party/
The Flagstaff Star Party is a component of the community’s year-long “Year of the Night Sky” celebration of Flagstaff’s dark sky heritage. Retired U.S. Naval Observatory astronomer Chris Luginbuhl, a member of the diverse group organizing “Year of the Night Sky” events, said of the year-long celebration, “Although astronomy is important, protecting the night sky just for astronomers would be like protecting the Grand Canyon just for geologists. Our hope is that “Year of the Night Sky” events will provide opportunities to look upward at night and help all of us think more broadly about night skies.”