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Heads up: Alamogordo museum hosts three-day Great Southwest Star Party

The Great Southwest Star Party at the Museum of Space History starts May 31 and is open to stargazers of all ages. (Courtesy of Air and Space magazine)

The night sky will light up with stars.

And visitors to the New Mexico Museum of Space History will have an opportunity to have a night sky viewing party beginning May 31.

The first annual Great Southwest Star Party will be held over the three days and will feature night sky viewing parties, museum and area tours, workshops, food vendors and on-site RV and tent camping.

“Southern New Mexico is internationally known for its dark skies and clear nights, with several public and private observatories in the area. It just made sense for the Museum of Space History to create something like this,” says Tony Gondola, museum outreach coordinator and an amateur astronomer who originated the concept for the event. “Several counties and cities, including Alamogordo, have enacted dark-sky ordinances to protect and encourage night sky viewing. We’re looking at this event as a way to showcase what we have in our area to amateur astronomers and their families across the country.”

On May 31, there will be a barbecue dinner with a special guest speaker followed by the first night of observing.

“The museum provides a perfect host site for an event like this,” says Museum Executive Director Chris Orwoll. “The museum is base camp, and where most of the activities happen, but it’s also an excellent springboard for showing our guests what we have to offer in the area, like Apache Point, White Sands and, of course, the local pistachio groves and wineries.” Local tours are planned for Saturday and Sunday afternoons during the event.

On June 1 and 2, a cowboy breakfast will be followed by swap meet-style vendor displays, optional field trips and local tours, solar observing, various presentations and astronomy workshops.

The evening meals will offer a taste of Southwestern flavor and local cuisine before a full night of viewing. Sunday evening is open to the general public, with participating astronomers allowing the public to view the skies through their telescopes.

“This is a great event for the community and ties into the mission of the museum,” Gondola says. “We really did look at places to have this. We decided to have it at the museum because of the facilities we have. As far as planning (goes), we wanted to focus on the forums and then arrange for the speakers. There will also to a field trip out to White Sands and up to the observatories.”

More information on the schedule and prices can be found at nmspacemuseum.org.

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