Astronomers from Nebraska and several other Midwestern states are holding what they call a “star party” this weekend at a nature preserve that prides itself on being the darkest spot in Iowa.
Tolif Hunt, executive director of the Whiterock Conservancy near Coon Rapids, says star gazers will be there from all over the region. Hunt says astronomers are coming from central Wisconsin, Illinois and Nebraska. A public event tonight will include a short “Astronomy 101” class, open night sky viewing and sky interpretation from local and regional astronomers.
Hunt says each telescope owner will show onlooks spectacular planets, galaxies, stars and more heavenly bodies that are millions of miles away. Hunt says you can see a lot of the sky with binoculars and small telescopes but these guys will be bringing in telescopes which “weigh about as much as my little car and probably worth twice it,” allowing people to see nebula and other spacial bodies that you can’t see with a standard-issue telescope.
Due to its remote location in an isolated area of Iowa, Hunt says the area is prime for looking at the night sky. He says they looked at satellite pictures taken at night of the whole state during various seasons and it “jumps right out,” as they’re situated in a place where light polution isn’t a problem — about halfway between Des Moines and Omaha and between Kansas City and Minneapolis.
All ages are welcome. Star gazers are encouraged to bring a blanket.
Whiterock Conservancy is a non-profit land trust dedicated to conserving and protecting Iowa’s natural resources, demonstrating sustainable rural land management and engaging the public with the environment through outdoor recreation and education. For more information, visit the website.