(While 99% of the Guide's content is either Ms. Karen's or Jim's product, occasionally we invite adventurous and talented others to write a guest column. Wendy & Richard Buckley are visiting us from Alberta and we encouraged them to experience the Sky Center's night program. This is their report.)
We recommend this program to anyone who enjoys the beauty of the night skies and the magnificent scenery around the Tucson Basin. We took the 27 mile drive to the top of Mount Lemmon; glorious views all the way up from a number of vista points.
We, and 13 others, were met at the top by Kathie Zelaya, our administrator/guide/driver/caterer/entertainer. She was great – highly informed, highly informative and very entertaining. We started with an orientation of the overall site. Then, inside the learning centre for some basics on the night skies and the physics of sunsets. Then out again, with binoculars provided, to view the sunset. It was wonderful; just enough cloud to deliver spectacular colors. A light meal and coffee/tea was provided.
As predicted by Kathie, the cloud cleared for the night sky viewing. We viewed stars such as Sirius and Betelgeuse, the Orion and Crab nebulae, the Pleiades and other star clusters, Andromeda and other galaxies, and Jupiter with four of its moons through the 34” Schulman telescope, one of the largest available for use by the public.
Even when not using the telescope, it’s amazing how much you can see with just a decent pair of binoculars if you know where to look.
Book ahead, each tour has a limit of 20 people.
Leave early and allow lots of time for the drive up the mountain. It truly is spectacular, you’ll want to stop often, especially at the Seven Cataracts, Windy Point and Hoodoos Vista Points.
Dress in layers and bring a warm coat. It’s chilly on top of the mountain after sunset. The tour alternates between outside cool and inside warm.
The program lasted from 4pm to 10pm this time of year, so with the drive up the mountain, this takes the best part of an afternoon and evening.