The Astronomical Society of Las Cruces has a rich tradition of education and public outreach. The club was founded by Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto as many of you know. Many outreach activities have continued over the years. One of these is the monthly observing at Leasburg Dam State Park in Radium Springs, NM. Years before I became a member the Park Service and the ASLC got together to build an observatory at Leasburg. New Mexico State University donated a used Meade 16 inch scope and the club also installed a video system for the smaller William Optics 110 ED scope. Shortly after I arrived in New Mexico I joined the ASLC and became the observatory director. Every month we open the observatory to the public. This is a great opportunity for people of all ages to look through a large telescope. I think astronomy is a fantastic way to get people interested in science and this is important for all of us. Science encourages independent thinking, looking at things objectively and drawing conclusions from what you observe and not from what other people tell you. I think society is generally healthier as a result. I also enjoy the teaching aspect of it and seeing people’s amazement as they look at the rings of Saturn and other objects. Several folks don’t believe what they are seeing is real! It’s a welcome break from the self absorbing activities such as astroimaging. Trying to explain how the universe works to the general public forces you to understand it better!Einstein once said “If you can’t explain it to a 6 year old you don’t understand it yourself”
At any rate this last outing was one of the best I can remember. In the Summer , the night time astronomy is preceded by live music from a local performer. It’s a popular spot as the weather is very favorable this time of year. We get mostly campers that come by but some people visiting and local residents also enjoy the event. The Milky way was in full bloom at the start of the night. Actually reminded me of what I see up at Orion’s Belt Observatory in Mayhill! Usually it’s not that crisp. Radium Springs is way better than Las Cruces but still maybe a Bortle 4 sky. Seeing was fantastic. We started with Saturn and I was able to go to our 20mm eyepiece from the 30 which is rare for the 16″! The Cassini was sharp and the hemispheric markings were well resolved. Next was the Lagoon nebula followed by M13 where in the 16 you can reach in there and grab every star. We finished up with a journey to Andromeda. Low surface brightness even in the 16 but you can see the dust lane in the foreground. Bigger crowd than usual today! Hopefully I can go next month.
Thanks for reading!