Turn Out the Lights

Trip Start May 09, 2009
Trip End May 29, 2009

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Where I stayed
Natural Bridges National Monument

Flag of United States  , Utah
Friday, May 15, 2009

What prompted my interest in visiting Natural Bridges was not so much the natural bridge formations as the fact they are the primo dark sky park of all the national parks, a Class 1 on the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale. I have always been tempted to visit the dark places.

Gordon, the astronomy ranger at the Natural Bridges, gave an evening talk about many things: about teaching, the National Parks objective to preserve, the intrinsic value of darkness and lightness, and how he fell in love with astronomy. Afterwards he fired up his large telescope so that we could all get a peek at Saturn and a couple of her moons. Saturn appeared a small white olive with a toothpick through it - as Gordon described it - and we were able to make out two of her moons. Unfortunately the rest of the night sky didn't behave, with clouds blowing in from the northwest. He pointed out a few other stars, planets and constellations, then we broke for the night.

We went back to the campsite and crawled into our sleeping bags. With temperatures in the low 80's during the day and dropping into the 40's at night, we choose to leave the fly off the tent so we were only looking through the netting. It was almost like being kids sleeping in the backyard,laying on our backs staring straight up into the sky. An hour later the clouds moved out and we had a clear view of the stars. I got up around 1 a.m., sitting at the picnic table watching the sky, trying in vain to take some timed exposures. No fancy pictures, no Milky Way visible that night, but I did see a few shooting stars.
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