Open Skies, Open Invite: Saturday Night Star Parties at the Jack C. Davis Observatory

Picture this: you’re in a large room with tables, chairs, and fancy equipment. You’ve heard a little bit about the topic at hand, but are driven by curiosity. At the front of the room, a real, live professional shares decades worth of accumulated knowledge on the subject in a matter of minutes. Though you arrived but a mere civilian you feel you ought to leave with some sort of certificate on the matter. You just learned so much!

Am I describing TedX? Not quite. I am, however, describing the Mike Thomas Memorial Lecture Series at our very own local observatory. If you’ve ever gazed up at the night sky and wondered anything about it, you stand to benefit from this lecture series. Shake off any connection to the word “lecture” you have lingering from your school years. There’s no homework, no pop quizzes, no tuition. It’s actually… fun. And completely free.

Every third Saturday of the month, Dr. Tom Herring hosts a one hour, astronomy-related lecture that is open to the public. I had the chance to attend last month, and we learned all about the life and work of Charles Messier. As someone who has very little connection to the subject, I had a wonderful time. In our world of podcasts, ever updating feeds, and streams, it was such a gift to step back into a physical classroom and be taught again. Dr. Herring’s passion for astronomy and astrophotography is at the forefront of the lecture and the 25 attendees all benefited.

Surrounding the seating area is all sorts of equipment. After the lecture, Dr. Herring gave us a tour of the entire Jack C. Davis observatory. Though it’s part of the Western Nevada College campus, the observatory itself is located on higher ground than the rest of the school to allow for the best view. To a commoner like me, the facility felt like stepping into NASA. The observatory is home to three, for lack of better terms, gigantic telescopes used to observe the night sky. During the lecture portion of the evening, Dr. Herring pointed out several photographs that he himself had taken on site. They were the kind of photographs you’d find in a textbook. Truly mind blowing material, all achieved here in Carson City!

Want a more telescopes, less slide shows? The Jack C. Davis Observatory is open to the public every Saturday night (barring major holidays) for night sky observation guided by Dr. Herring. All are welcome whether you’re just interested in trying it once, or want to feed a passion. A calendar of events can be found here

No need for the adventure to stop when you’ve had your fill of great trails and delicious foods (BACKLINK IF YOU WANT TO). Rest your legs and lift your eyes to the sky for a whole new world of exploration every Saturday night at the Jack C. Davis observatory!