MONTROSE – In a continuing effort to educate and foster inquisitiveness about all things in the sky, the Black Canyon Astronomical Society has begun its 13th year with scheduled outreach programs designed to stimulate public interest in astronomy in southwestern Colorado.
With regular programs at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Ridgway State Park and in the area’s schools throughout the school year, the club and its 31 members, from Silverton to the North Fork Valley, remain passionate about tracking and observing the heavens for public education.
"Our primarily focus as a club is outreach," Society President Bryan Cashion said at the club's first monthly meeting on Jan. 29.
Cashion said he was pleased to have a large turnout at the club's first star-gazing event, held four days later at the Black Canyon on a chilly winter evening on the South Rim.
He said light cloud cover prevented perfect viewing but small pockets of open sky were available for the club and their dozens of telescopes.
"Usually what tends to hook people the most is to look through a telescope. It's the wow factor. And it's amazing that's the word you hear the most, you don't hear awesome, spectacular or beautiful very much; it's mostly wow," Cashion said, adding the purpose of the club is “to instill a sense of wonder and excitement about not only the science of what they’re seeing but of the beauty as well.”
He said events at the Black Canyon can draw between 30 and 70 attendees, and at Ridgway State Park 50 to 70 people have attended in the past.
"We hold them at the visitor's center near the campgrounds, so we usually get people wandering over," Cashion said.
He said people who attend their functions get a quick education on celestial objects, including constellations, star clusters, galaxies and nebulae ,and the movements they make relative to the Earth.
"We try to give them as much as we can in just a few minutes ... some scientific information about what their looking at," Cashion said.
Thirteen-year-old Montrose student Sam Mebane attended the Jan. 29 meeting along with his mother, Elizabeth. It was their first meeting. Drawing more first time attendees is a goal the club continues to pursue.
Sam said he was excited about the meeting's presentation on dark matter, given by founding club member Monica Treadway. He said his long term goal is to work for the federal government on machines that operate in space.
"I‘ve had a long-time interest in physics, and not only physics but astrological properties and how stuff works and travels in space," Mebane said.
From June through August the club will hold two programs a week at the Black Canyon and one program a month at Ridgway State Park.
The club's outreach programs and meetings are open to the public and are free to attend. Annual membership dues are $12 for an individual and $20 for a family.
More information about the club can be found at blackcanyonastronomy.com.