By Rob Halberg
Southern Arizona is called, “The Astronomy Capital of the World” and it is easy to see why. Look up and you can see thousands of stars and several planets, all with the naked eye. Tucson’s elevation, dark skies and dry atmosphere allow you to observe many more stars than in other US locations. We even can see the Milky Way!
How do I get started? Look up! Most of us know of the “Big” or “Little” Dipper, which are often easily spotted. But what about all of the other objects – and planets? Download one of the many stargazing apps – a few free well known apps are “Star Walk 2”, “Sky View Lite” and “SkySafari”. Or you can purchase a “Planisphere” which shows the locations of all of the stars and planets at any time of year for $11.95 on Amazon.
Where is the best viewing? The darker, the better. Saguaro National Park, Catalina State Park and Mt. Lemmon offer spectacular views. UA’s Flandrau Science Center has a 16’ Telescope that is free to use. Tucson also has a bar devoted to astronomy. Sky Astronomy Bar is located on 4th Avenue next to Brooklyn Pizza. They set up telescopes on their roof every night and have astronomers on hand to answer questions.
The Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA) also offers public “Star Parties” throughout the year. Tucson Astronomers will set up their telescopes in a public location and all are free to attend. TAAA also offers private star parties for local schools, organizations and communities with a phone call.
So Look Up! Jupiter, Saturn & Mars may now be seen at night; you can see Venus and Mercury in the early morning.