Looking for something fun to do in Palmetto Bay on a Saturday night? Look no more. Not only is this fun, it's also FREE. Sure beats the movies at $9 a pop.
The Southern Cross Astronomical Society has been bringing astronomy to us since 1922. They meet each Saturday night at the Bill Sadowski Nature Preserve in Palmetto Bay from 8 - 10PM. Their volunteers do this for fun. We're lucky!
I took the kids there this past weekend. We checked the weather and headed out. When we arrived at the park, the gates were open (they're usually locked at this time) so I was pretty sure they were there in spite of the rain that had been threatening all day.
As we turned into the park I turned my lights off. My youngest reminded me that I shouldn't be driving at night without my lights on. I explained to her that I had shut them off at the request of the SCAS website. She couldn't understand why until we met and chatted with one of the volunteers inside.
As we parked I have to admit that I couldn't see a darn thing and was thinking I should just put the car in reverse and head back home. Must be the paranoid, over-protective mother in me! There were only 3 cars in the parking lot that I could see. We heard some voices coming from over where I knew the telescope pad is and I ushered the kids over there. As we approached, our eyes started adjusting to the dark and I could see that there were a few more cars over by the pad. These apparently belonged to the SCAS volunteers.
On the pad there were 3 huge telescopes set up for viewing. They were nothing like the long-awaited Christmas gift telescope of childhood years. These things were impressive! Two had laptops hooked up to them and they were all programmable. I saw the guys punch in numbers that would set the telescope whirring and turning as it looked for another celestial body to focus on.
The gentlemen that were there were very friendly and helpful. They let the kids view whatever their scopes were focused on and encouraged questions. Once the kids got their first peek through one of the eyeviewers their curiosity took over and a barrage of questions ensued.
- How far away is that?
- When will it reach us?
- How far away can we see with these?
- How long is a light year?
- When did the star blow up that made the ring Nebula?
- What's gonna happen when those two galaxies collide?
- How come you don't have a laptop attached to your telescope? (it was stolen right here...shame, shame)
As we chatted about not having the car lights on when driving into the park, (it ruins their night vision and takes them 30 minutes to adjust their eyes again) one of the guys told us something he'd learned about pirates. It seems pirates had a reason for wearing eye patches, besides covering a maimed eye. The covered eye would be acclimated to the dark and when they went below deck they would switch the eyepatch so they could see above or below deck easily. Pretty neat, eh? He appreciated the fact that we had turned our lights off. I could see what a difference it made when a car came in 2 minutes later with their beams shining brightly on all of us. We all turned and looked the other way.
Somebody felt rain and they all scrambled for their plastic coverings. We ran away and thanked them for their time and laughed as the rain got to us before we could get to the car.
On the way home one of my nephews admitted that he had thought it was going to be another one of Tia's corny trips. "Was it?" I asked. "No way. It was really cool. I want to be an astronomer when I grow up!"
At least until I take him to the seaquarium. =)
Bill Sadowski Nature Preserve * SW 176 Street & 79 Avenue * 8-10PM @ Saturday (weather permitting)
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