Flaming Oaks star party

At a star party last night, 13 central-Oklahoma amateur astronomers treated residents of the Flaming Oaks neighborhood to beautiful views of the universe from our own front yard. We traced the constellations of the Winter Hexagon and the circumpolar stars. We enjoyed telescopic views of the Pleiades, the Owl Cluster and the Beehive Cluster, among others, including the Great Nebula in the sword of Orion the Hunter. What a privilege and joy to live in east Norman where the skies are dark enough to see the Milky Way!

Peter Khor pointed his telescope to the Great Orion Nebula, and displayed this view of the Great Orion Nebula on an attached Mallincam screen.

Great Orion Nebula, as seen last night in Flaming Oaks.
Great Orion Nebula, as seen last night in Flaming Oaks.

What a memorable evening these astronomers gave us! Thanks to all of you for devoting an evening to sharing your love of the night sky with us. We particularly thank 6 of Eileen G.’s students from the Norman North High School Astronomy Club. They were joined by Nick Lazzaro from the Ten Acre Observatory and Odyssey Astronomy Club, among others.

Indoors, there were stars as well — adorning the varieties of cookies many FOHA neighbors brought! We enjoyed them over friendly conversations, coffee, tea and hot chocolate. A special thanks to Joyce McBee and DeeAnne Lyon for lots of help organizing and setting up. And thanks to Eris J., a Brownie Girl Scout, for setting up a display where we could purchase our own Girl Scout cookies!

Eileen G. led us in a dramatic reading of There Once Was a Sky Full of Stars, a children’s story about keeping the sky dark. She then shared information about full cut-off light fixtures, easily obtained from Lowes or Home Depot, which keep light directed toward the ground where it is needed, instead of throwing it up into the air where it creates glare and unnecessary skyglow.

Eileen G. and Nick Lazzaro explaining the use of full cut-off light fixtures.
Eileen G. and Nick Lazzaro explaining the use of full cut-off light fixtures.

To learn more about preserving our dark skies by using full cut-off light fixtures, check out these sources:

I encourage everyone who lives in east Norman to choose only full cut-off light fixtures for your outdoor lighting.

For obvious reasons, we took no photographs of people outside at the telescopes. But indoors, there were many activities as well to occupy us when we wanted to socialize, warm up, and enjoy refreshments…

Constellation cards
Constellation cards.

Constellation coloring pages
Constellation coloring pages.

Constellation Station board game
Constellation Station board game.

Star clocks - tell time by the Big Dipper
Star clocks – tell time by the Big Dipper.

Books and leaflets
Assorted books and leaflets.

Star charts and astronomy events.
Star charts and astronomy events. Cf. Night Sky Planner, Postcards from the Universe, and Star Atlas Stories.

Constellation children's books
Constellation children’s books.

Even a reading nook
Even a reading nook!

Time now for a thin mint cookie… Did you know Girl Scouts now sell gluten-free cookies? Mmmmm.

Finally, to become familiar with the stars of winter (or any season), I recommend Chet Raymo, 365 Starry Nights. Raymo’s sky chart for January 1st features the Winter Hexagon:

Winter Hexagon, Chet Raymo, 365 Starry Nights

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