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Looking up: Open Space Visitor Center hosts Cosmic Carnival and Star Party

The Albuquerque Astronomical Society is holding a Cosmic Carnival and Star Party in collaboration with the city on Saturday, Nov. 9. (Courtesy of the Albuquerque Astronomical Society)

Look up and see the glory of the Albuquerque sky during the Cosmic Carnival and Star Party.

The free event presented by The Albuquerque Astronomical Society in collaboration with the city takes place on Saturday, Nov. 9. The Cosmic Carnival begins the event during the day from 1 to 5 p.m. The Star Party will begin once the sun starts to set at 6 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m.

Attendees can view the sun through a telescope with a special solar filter during the Cosmic Carnival. They can also learn and discover at exhibitor stations as well as attend presentations. Several organizations and their representatives will be in attendance, including TAAS, Explora, the National Weather Service, International Dark Skies Association, Intergalactic Cultural Relations Institute, NASA, and the University of New Mexico’s Institute of Meteoritics, which will display samples of meteorites from its museum. Later in the evening, eventgoers will be able to gaze at the night sky through telescopes provided by TAAS during the Star Party.

“We will have a display on black holes, and we will have a display on how telescopes work with lenses,” said Dee Wayne Friesen, TAAS Cosmic Carnival coordinator. “We will have the TAAS traveling planetarium, which we take monthly to schools, and we will be giving planetarium shows about every half-hour.”

The black hole exhibit is interesting, Friesen said.

“What makes a black hole? How does it work?” Friesen asked. “We’ve actually got a retired astronomer who will be doing that. His name is Dr. Bob Havalan. … He’s a member of our club and on the board of directors, and he does this interesting exhibit on black holes.”

Eventgoers can step outside and see a model of the solar system.

“There is an object called an Orrery and that is the definition of a mechanical solar system,” Friesen said. “These were quite popular in the 1700s, and there’s a guy from Santa Fe bringing it down and it’s made with bicycle gears. (Attendees) can hand-operate it, and it shows all the planets going around the sun, and that’s kind of a unique thing.”

TAAS has existed for about 50 years. Its mission is to observe, educate and have fun, Friesen said. The organization is active in the community and visits area schools each month to do presentations.

The Open Space Visitor Center is celebrating 35 years.

“The Visitor Center is a real unique space, because it’s about 10 minutes from Downtown and kind of an oasis, and it’s a wonderful spot for night sky viewing,” said Kent Swanson, Open Space Visitor Center manager. “We’re not open in the evenings very often, so this is a rare opportunity for folks to enjoy the open space and see the night sky and have a real beautiful setting with views of the Sandias. It overlooks about 18 acres of farmland, so it’s a great location for star parties.”

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