Despite clouds, Star Party opens up the night sky

Published 6:30 am Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Mother Nature made Saturday night’s first-ever Star Party a little less than what was hoped for, but it didn’t mean it wasn’t a success.

Underneath mostly cloudy skies, Austin’s Star Party was moved from the Sola Fide Observatory to the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, where a good group of visitors experienced several activities related to the moon, which was the theme. The events turned out to be different from the actual viewing of the moon, Jupiter and Saturn and other deep sky objects people could have viewed had the party gone on at the observatory.

“I actually am surprised by the amount of people who came out,” said nature center intern Kelly Bahl, who organized Austin’s party. “I’m also excited about the future of the observatory.”

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As people made their way from station to station, Bahl found herself interested by some of the things she was hearing from visitors.

“I’ve heard from people who haven’t been to the observatory,” she said. “ I hope it peaks more interest.”

Jay C. Hormel Nature Center intern Kelly Bahl demonstrates how exo-planets are discovered during the Star Party.

The Bell Museum in St. Paul, conceived the idea of the state-wide Star Party. Nadia Abuisnaineh, Bell Museum/NASA Solar System Ambassador, explained that the idea came from concepts in other states throughout the country.

It worked well with the timing and continuing growth of astronomy outside of scientific circles. With the advancement of technology and easier access to sky-viewing, Abuisnaineh feels the idea of Star Parties works in well to that growing interest.

“I feel astronomy is one of the oldest sciences,” she said. “I feel like there is a connection with space and the night sky. We want to bring it back to the communities and look at a night sky going back to the early history of humans.”

People have been able to watch some of the greatest endeavors of mankind in terms of space over the recent years in real time, and it helps bridge that interest to the public, particularly going back to those who remember things like the moon landing.

“People have been really receptive,” Abuisnaineh said. “Older generation Americans are remembering that experience. There’s a lot of connections for them to their kids and grandkids. It’s opened up big conversations. It is being talked about due to the recent discoveries.”

For Bahl and the Sola Fide Observatory, however it simply is a chance for people to get out and maybe see something they haven’t seen before.

“The night sky is fun,” when Bahl was asked what she hopes people come away with. “There are things that you might not know about.”