Trusted local news leader for Williams AZ and the Grand Canyon
Tue, May 11

Star Party at Yavapai attracts<br>various amateur astronomers

For 10 years now, the Grand Canyon Star Party has been the perfect backdrop for amateur astronomers from around the country. Although this year’s number of participants appeared to be down, those who did haul out their telescopes to gaze at the heavens were enjoying themselves.

Randy Pregler of Phoenix peers through his telescope at the moon Thursday night during the Grand Canyon Star Party. It’s the 10th year of the annual event, which attracts amateur astronomers from around the country.

“I’ve been doing this kind of thing for 30 years,” said Gordon Gower, a member of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association, which promotes the event. “This is only the second year I’ve been here.”

Dean Ketelsen, senior research specialist at the Univesity of Arizona’s Steward Observatory, organizes the program. Ketelsen and his co-horts offered free star slide programs each evening for a week. The event, which is staged at Yavapai Observation Station, wrapped up Saturday.

On Thursday night, most of the amateur astronomers were complaining about the brightness of the moon, which made it difficult to study other features of the night sky. Most of the telescopes were aimed at the moon, while others kept an eye on the planet Mercury or a set of “double-double stars.”

Visitors made their way around the Yavapai parking area to look through the various telescopes, which ranged in size and quality. Some of the intruments cost their owners several thousand dollars.

“I got my first telescope when I was 7,” said Randy Pregler of Phoenix. “I worked at Lowell (Observatory) for three years. I’ve been here since Saturday.”

Pregler’s telescope, which included three eyepieces, ran him about $1,100.

Gower’s story was much of the same. He became interested in astronomy while he was still in high school, when he built one from scratch. Visitors were peering through his somewhat portable telescope worth $2,500.

There were also telescopes set up during the daytime to provide visitors with up-close views of the Grand Canyon as well as safe observation of the sun. The sun has been in the news the past week for its high activity of flareups.

Joe Bergeron, who came to the Star Party for the third time from his California home, said the Grand Canyon is a great place for such an event.

“I love hanging around at the Grand Canyon,” said Bergeron, who is an artist. “it’s a nice time to be here.”

Bergeron said viewing has been good for the most part during the week, althrough high winds were causing some problems, along with the moonlight.

Bergeron’s telescope was a six-inch Astro-physic Refractor, worth about $7,000.

“I just like to look out and wonder what’s out there,” he said. “I’m talking about finding what’s out there in finer detail. It’s relaxing. I like the quiet and I usually observe alone. It’s nice.”

For more information on the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association, visit the group’s Internet Website at www.tucsonastronomy.org.

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