Dolores museum features astronomy events in September

Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018 5:38 PM
The Canyons of the Ancients Visitor and Museum will feature an astronomy presentation from the Native American perspective on Sept. 8. Here, a Father Sky and Mother Earth Navajo sand painting depicts traditional Navajo astronomy. The arms on Father Sky represent the Milky Way.
Jennifer Frost is park ranger for Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, and has a love for astronomy. She has organized two events in September, a presentation by astronaut Rick Hieb and a presentation about connects cultures and astronomy.

The public is invited to two astronomy events at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor’s Center and Museum, 27501 Colorado Highway 184, Dolores.

On Sept. 1, astronaut Rick Hieb will present “Space Flight, The Ultimate Camping Trip” at 7 p.m.

Hear details of Hieb’s three missions on the Space Shuttle, including a space walk where he captured a satellite and held it with one hand. Hieb has logged more than 750 hours in space, including 17 hours of space walks.

His most well-known flight was the maiden voyage of the space shuttle Endeavour, which was built to replace the lost Challenger. The 1992 Endeavour flight was a satellite rescue mission culminating in the first and only three-person spacewalk, during which Hieb and his colleagues captured a 9,000-pound satellite in their spacesuit-gloved hands. They then attached the satellite to a booster rocket and released it, sending it on its way to the originally intended orbit.

In addition to being the only three-person spacewalk in history, it held the record for more than 10 years as the longest ever spacewalk, at just under 8½ hours.

On Sept. 8 at 8:30 p.m., park ranger Jennifer Frost will host “Night With The Ancients,” a presentation that connects different cultural stories with astronomy.

Learning about the night sky through the Native American perspective is the goal.

“The Ancestral Puebloans were monitoring the skies, so there are a lot of cultural stories beyond just the Greek and Roman,” Frost said.

The presentation also will include a lesson on star-hopping, the technique of using a constellation you are familiar with to find ones less familiar.

Hieb’s and Frost’s events will conclude with stargazing using telescopes, if weather and conditions allow. Frost said smoke from the Plateau Fire has hindered recent stargazing efforts.

The events also will highlight the monument’s ongoing efforts to become designated as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. Eight specialized light meters will positioned throughout the monument to record light pollution levels. To assist in the project, a special challenge goes out to photographers, Frost said.

Photographic evidence of zodiacal and Gegenschein light from within the monument will help justify the effort to gain Dark Sky Sanctuary, Frost said.

The astronomical phenomena occur just below the horizon as the sun sets, creating a pyramid of light reflecting from the Earth’s elliptical dust plane.

They are most visible for a few weeks in spring and fall in areas with minimal light pollution.

For more information on astronomy events and the monument’s International Dark Sky Sanctuary efforts, contact Frost at 970-882-5635.