Star gazers look to Saturday at Oasis State Park

Mike Jimenez: PNT Intern

Oasis State Park will be hosting a Star Party on Saturday. This event is one of several that are held during the summer and fall for viewing the skies above eastern New Mexico.

According to Valerie Russ, Park Ranger at Oasis State Park, the fact that the park is located away from city lights makes for better viewing due to there being less light pollution.

Russ says that this is an opportunity for the people of the community to come out and take a look at the stars.

Two members of Eastern New Mexico University, Dr. Bill Andersen and Mick Hoffman, will be bringing out telescopes for the public to look through. Visitors are encouraged to bring out their own telescopes and binoculars.

Andersen who teaches physics at ENMU, said that there will be a number of objects to look at in the night sky. Andersen said that for the beginner, a cheap pair of 7X50 binoculars would work just fine.

“Don’t buy a telescope,” Andersen said. “A tripod will also help you look,” he added.

In use at the Star Party will be a planisphere, which Andersen called a poor man’s planetarium. The planisphere shows what stars will be in the sky for any date and time. He went on to say that the strong possibility exists that viewers will see a shooting star or satellite during the evening.

In speaking with Hoffman, Smart Class coordinator at ENMU, there will be various galaxies and nebulae viewable during the Star Party. The Great Cluster of Hercules has about 100,000 stars. The Ring Nebulae, a circle of gas should be visible as well. Hoffman said that the Andromeda galaxy, approximately 2.3 million light years away should be visible as well. He said that viewers who see this will be looking back through history 2.3 million years.

Hoffman said that the stars will appear gray, and not in color as the human eye does not see color at night. The pictures that are shown in magazines have been color enhanced.
Mars and Venus should be visible, with Venus appearing in a crescent form. Mars is just coming up and may be able to be seen in some detail.

“It’s the thrill of seeing something with your own eyes,” Hoffman said. He went on to say that in the past, there are normally 40 to 60 people at these Star Parties.

James Williams, park technician, will be on hand to assist visitors in locating the Star Party. Parking will be in the ballfield, which is located on the west side by the pond.

Russ says that in the past, the turnout has been good. She says that viewing begins at dusk, and usually lasts until about 10 p.m. when the park staff leaves for the day.

Jim Whary, Manager of Oasis State Park, said that the park is in the running for its own observatory. Whary said that four observatories are being built at parks throughout the state, with one being built in each of the four regions. An observatory has already been built in City of Rock State Park near the Deming/Silver City area. Another is currently being built in the Clayton Lake State Park. Whary said he does not know when or if Oasis State Park will be selected for its own observatory. Whary said, if built, the observatory would consist of a permanently mounted telescope.

“It would give the interested public a place to come frequently to see the stars without having to wait for a Star Party,” Whary said.