By Bob Grossman, Norwood Dark Sky Initiative
Last Spring I had some electrical problems in my Boulder home so I called an electrician who had worked with me before. In the course of the conversation, I found out he was the President of the Longmont Astronomical Society (LAS; https://www.longmontastro.org/ ) founded in 1987. I pounced! Could I attend one of their meetings and let them know about Norwood’s Dark Sky Initiative? I was given a spot at the end of the next meeting only a few days away. The program was very interesting including a talk on the history of CU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics by its Director and a group journey to the high desert of Chile to make observations. Many of the members are retired and active scientists and engineers working in astronomy or space science. Check out some of the images they’ve captured on their website. Impressive.
So I had my five minutes of fame, easily describing the beauty of Norwood and Wright’s Mesa, high altitude, desert, very friendly and motivated folks, food, lodging, camping and how dark it was. I also left my phone and email.
About a month ago, one of the members, David Elmore, a retired solar physicist, got in touch via email. He had developed a new instrument for his 8” Newtonian telescope and thought Norwood’s dark sky would be a good place to test it. About that time, an astronomer in Ridgway, Val Szwarc, got in touch with me as he had heard about our IDA Dark Sky effort and offered his presence at a star party. Val has association with the Black Canyon Astronomical Society (BCAS; www.blackcanyonastronomy.com) and he wanted to bring his equipment and join in. BCAS is part of the Western Colorado Astronomy Net (http://www.blackcanyonastronomy.com/WCAN.HTM). However, David’s objective was to test his equipment, which he displays on a computer screen not through an eyepiece. The end of September new moon period was chosen as an observing period but the main plan is to check out facilities and observing locations on Wright’s Mesa and report back to their Societies. This could get us off to a great start! They plan to be here from 26-29 September; not a weekend but dark. David will be bringing a sky quality meter on loan from LAS that measures skylight; one of the requirements for certification is making measurements around town and country.
So with Val and Woody Wood’s (Norwood) telescopes a star party is definitely on the table. I have been in touch with the Wilkinson Library in Telluride to reserve their telescope; you just have to be a resident of San Miguel County. My place on Deer Mesa is just across the county line, in Montrose or I’d have reserved it. David says star parties are best from new moon to first quarter. If a party is planned, it will be announced on the Norwood Chamber of Commerce website (norwoodcolorado.com).