Slipping into fall; stargazing opportunities

SOUTHERN UTAH – With temperatures dropping and daylight hours shrinking, the fall equinox is upon us. Local astronomy groups are taking advantage of the season by scheduling stargazing parties Saturday night in Cedar City and Sept. 30 in the St. George area.

The autumn equinox occurred Thursday, signaling the end of summer and the beginning of fall in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern hemisphere.

An equinox occurs when the sun and Earth are aligned and the northern and southern hemispheres receive equal amounts of sunshine, according to National Geographic.

On the fall and spring equinoxes, the sun rises due east and sets due west, the only days when this happens.

Read more: Skywatcher Alert: 2016 night sky celestial events calendar

Dark Sky party at Three Peaks

The Southern Utah Space Foundation will hold a “Dark Sky” party on Saturday at Three Peaks Recreational Area. The public is invited to come and look at the stars through a large telescope.

The group will be viewing Mars and Saturn, along with the Hercules Great Cluster, the Ring Nebula, a myriad of globular clusters and the Andromeda Galaxy.

This event is free and open to the public. Donations are always welcomed and appreciated; funds will be used to help the Space Foundation buy better equipment for the community to use.

It is recommended to arrive at 8 p.m.. Dress for cold conditions and bring a blanket or chair for additional warmth and comfort.

Directions to Three Peaks from Cedar City can be found here.

Disclaimer: Space Foundation members will remain at the viewing site until everyone leaves the event. Additionally, members will be there at the start time, but if the event is rained or snowed out and no one arrives, they will only wait one hour from the start time before canceling the event.

Star party at Quail Creek Reservoir

The St. George Astronomy Group will host a star party at Quail Creek State Park on Sept. 30. The public is invited. The group sponsors regular local stargazing events and recently organized as an official astronomy club.

The group is helping the park apply for a dark sky designation, according to a press statement. 

Event details

  • What:
    • Dark Sky party hosted by Southern Utah Space Foundation.
    • Stargazing with telescopes hosted by St. George Astronomy Group.
  • When:
    • Dark Sky party: Saturday, Sept. 24, 8 p.m.
    • Stargazing with telescopes: Friday, Sept. 30. Telescope setup begins at 6:30 p.m.; observing is 8-11 p.m.
  • Where:
    • Dark Sky party: Three Peaks Recreational Area, Cedar City.
    • Stargazing with telescopes: Quail Creek State Park, south boat ramp area.
  • Cost:
    • Dark Sky party: Admission is free, though donations are welcomed.
    • Stargazing with telescopes: No entrance fee for St. George Astronomy Club members bringing telescopes; all others will be charged a $4 per car entrance fee.  

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