Dark Skies, Bright Stars: Summer Astronomy Programs at AMC Lodges and Huts

July 25, 2016
astronomy programs
Raphael HvidingDaily and nightly astronomy programs run through the summer at AMC lodges and huts, including Joe Dodge Lodge (pictured).

Years ago, in response to a visitor’s question, “How far can you see from here?” a Lakes of the Clouds Hut croo member was heard to reply, “If you look at the sun, you can see 93 million miles.”

All kidding aside, today’s AMC croo members are shining sources of information on celestial bodies, as the result of a partnership between AMC and the Institute of Astronomy at Carthage College. And they’re sharing that knowledge with guests at AMC’s huts and visitor centers in the White Mountains.

AMC staff and volunteers receive training in astronomic observation and interpretation from Carthage representatives to help engage visitors in both daytime and nighttime sky viewing using telescopes available at the huts.

In addition, interns on summer break from the Kenosha, Wisc., college are on duty daily through August 19 at AMC’s Highland Center and Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, encouraging visitors to put their eyes to the telescope and take a peek. One particular instrument allows viewers to get a close-up look at the sun—as well as sun spots and solar flares—without the risk of eye damage.

On days when the weather doesn’t cooperate, indoor programming includes planetarium viewing and building model solar systems. AMC and Carthage interns also have provided sky-viewing opportunities for visitors to Franconia Notch State Park.

This marks the fifth year of the partnership, spearheaded by the institute’s director, Dr. Douglas Arion, who is delivering a free lecture series this summer at AMC destinations. Arion’s next lectures are set to take place August 8 and September 3 at Pinkham, and August 13 at Highland. Programs begin at 8 p.m. and are to be followed by sky observation through telescopes, weather permitting.

The August 13 program coincides with the anticipated peak of the Perseid meteor showers. In addition to Arion’s lecture, guests are invited to come early for a themed dinner, available for purchase.

“We are thrilled to be able to connect our guests and visitors to the greater universe through this fantastic, multiyear collaboration with Carthage College,” says Chris Thayer, AMC’s director of North Country Programs and Outreach, who helped implement the partnership. “Dr. Arion and the Carthage interns are so knowledgeable and passionate about the sky above us, and it’s great to see how people’s engagement through day and evening observations leads to greater awareness of dark-sky stewardship.”

The effort is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation.



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