On the evening of Thursday, November 4, the Salt River Tribal Library invited families in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to come out and explore the skies with a Star Party.
“We thought of the East Valley Astronomy Club, which is nearby,” said Salt River Tribal Library Assistant Pat Donahower. “It gives kids the opportunity to see what’s out there in the night skies and learn about astronomy.”
Two members from the East Valley Astronomy Club came out to share their telescopes so the children could see “to infinity and beyond!” The members explained which stars everyone was looking at and how far they were from Earth. They also answered questions about telescopes and the constellations.
The first “star of the show” was actually the planet Jupiter, which is the fifth plant from the sun and the largest planet in our solar system. Also visible were Jupiter’s moons, a set of four moons called the Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Jupiter and its moons are 388 million miles away from Earth.
Another sight from the sky was the Ring Nebula, which looks like a faint ring of smoke to the human eye through the telescope. The Ring Nebula is located in the northern constellation of Lyra and just south of the star Vega, which was featured in the science-fiction movie Contact.
One of the final sights of the night was NGC 457, also known as the Owl Cluster, Kachina Doll Cluster or the ET Cluster. The cluster is made up of two bright stars that make up the “eyes,” then a line of stars through its “body,” and then stars out to its side that look like outstretched arms. The cluster of stars is roughly 8,000 light-years away from the sun.
The children couldn’t get enough of looking through the telescope. They were able to take home some of the sights they had seen thanks to library staff, who made small posters for all participants.
In addition to being educational and fun, the Star Party was a good chance to socialize; the library provided snacks such as cookies, popcorn and hot chocolate.
For more information on upcoming events at the Salt River Tribal Library, please call (480) 362-2557.