Blanco State Park hosted its third, quarterly “Stars-in-the-Park” event on Friday, May 20, 2012. Held under a brilliantly clear Blanco nighttime sky, more than 100 participants gathered at the park pavilion to enjoy an evening of learning and wonderment as the mysteries of the starry heavens unfolded before their very eyes.
Attendees were treated to an orientation to the evening by Blanco’s own John Watson. He explained the difference between reflector and refractor telescopes and used a computerized planetarium program called Stellarium (free download at www.stellarium.org) to demonstrate what the evening’s sky would look like once the sun went down. A lively question-and-answer session ensued, with John fielding such questions as “What happens when two black holes collide?” and “What is an annular eclipse of the sun?”
The event was supported by amateur astronomers from the Hill Country Astronomers and the Wimberley Astronomers who erected a variety of telescopes for the enjoyment of the participants. A 150-foot-long temporary barrier shielded the viewing field from headlights and the City of Blanco successfully extinguished an old “barn light on a pole” near Highway 281 that had been a distraction at previous events. Controlling aberrant light from outdoor lighting fixtures is essential to maintaining a dark sky free from light pollution.
Blanco State Park Interpretive Ranger Mary Alice Partain stated, “We are again delighted with the turnout for this event and are especially gratified to see so many families with children attend. Everyone, of all ages, is fascinated by astronomy and this is a great opportunity for Blanco State Park to bring a quality scientific experience right into our community. Our sincere thanks go to the amateur astronomers from the surrounding area as well as to the Friends of Blanco State Park, without whom we could not hold such an event. Stars-in-the-Park is now a regular part of the park’s interpretive offerings and we plan to make the next one even better!”