Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Stars Were Late to the Party But They Finally Arrived
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Sandra Flattery peers through an ice sculpture of a moon atWarfield Distillery and Brewery’s celestial cocktails stand.
 
Sunday, December 23, 2018
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

At first, it looked as if the only stars any one would see were those of Beetlejuice and the Big Dipper displayed in Scott Slonim’s inflatable Star Lab planetarium set up in Ketchum City Hall.

A pink alpenglow gave way to cloudy skies as adults and children assembled at Ketchum Town Square  for a Starry Solstice Social. The party celebrated the first anniversary of the area’s designation as the United States’  first International Dark Sky Reserve.

“To me dark skies mean telling stories,” said Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw as he took the stage among telescopes pointed to the clouds.

Kirk Long, who is studying astrophysics at Boise State University, noted that Bruneau Dunes State Park  where he spends weekends at the park’s observatory has the largest telescope in the state.

“We have incredibly dark skies there, but you guys have the only certified dark skies,” he said of the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, which encompasses Ketchum, Sun Valley, Stanley and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

Speakers soldiered on as partygoers drank cocoa and nibbled on free cookies and burritos served up by KBs, courtesy of the City of Ketchum.

And a half-hour after the party got underway, the last of the clouds drifted away, allowing Tim Frazier, a Bellevue resident who heads up the Magic Valley Astronomy Society, to show people the red planet of Mars through his giant scope as the full moon beamed down on the party.

 “It’s funny that they should pick the most lit up place in all of Ketchum to hold this!” said an amused police officer as he glanced around at the Christmas lights lighting the square.

Those who look up at the sky following Sun Valley’s Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade and Fireworks on Christmas Eve will be able to see the moon buzzing the Beehive. The orbital motion of the waning moon will carry it just below the center of the large open star cluster known as the Beehive, or Messier 44, in Cancer.

Mercury is spending December in the eastern pre-dawn sky with best viewing times occurring before 7 a.m. Venus is shining brightly in the eastern pre-dawn sky, visible until just before sunrise it’s so brilliant.

And the deep blue Neptune is visible in the western sky just before midnight.

To keep track of the comings and goings in the night sky, go to www.space.com.

 

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