A VIEW OF MAGNIFICENT DESOLATION

By J. Berndt

RIDGWAY–This began like any other endeavor, with the curiosity for something that I know nothing about. A small group of us piled in the car and made our way up to Ridgway State Park. When we pulled into the parking lot I notice off the road a ways were numerous telescopes set up. They all aimed in different directions, dis- playing what the naked eye can’t see.

We joined up with the group of people on the lawn. They hovered over their tele- scopes, delicately aligning them to specific coordinates. These are the members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society, a group of dedicated individuals from sur- rounding towns. At these events you will find that everyone involved is more than willing to answer questions. And the best part is they have all built this higher intelli- gence from pure passion, the love of as-

tronomy. BCAS provides a free service to our community, donating time to teach you what’s above us. Typically they meet up at the Black Canyon, but this was their last stop of the star gazing tour–their third event in 28 hours, Rock Stars.

There were telescopes of all sizes; one looked very similar to a cannon that had been lifted from an old pirate ship, and others had remotes that located everything in the giant sky with ease.

As we made our way around them all, like mad scientists they perfected their aim, offering us a look into the darkening sky.

They rushed to find Saturn before it went behind the horizon line, and sure enough there it was. When looking through, it was surreal. There you had it, the rings of Sat- urn and its three moons pulsated through the telescope.

I talked with Bryan Cashion, the presi- dent of BCAS about how he found this passion. “I went to a solar event that the club sponsored shortly after we moved to Montrose. It took off from there. Several people in the club were VERY helpful in answering a multitude of questions on my part. I enjoy the outreach and teaching others about the sky,” he said.

Bryan is not just content with looking through the telescope. He also has taken a fervent liking to astrophotography, the art of capturing pictures of the sky with an open shutter or with the right equipment through a telescope.

“It’s a blend of several areas that I’ve al- ways enjoyed: technology, computers, do- it-yourself, photography,” Bryan said.

I knew there was one question I had to ask–not sure if it was the most generic one of them all, or if it was just an annoying one–like when a waiter or waitress hears that finger snap, a no-no.

Do you believe in extraterrestrial life?

“The real question is, what do you define as ‘life’,” Bryan said. “I think that the sheer size of the universe results in a good prob- ability that somewhere something is there, but it may be simple, e.g. single-celled. The technology to reach distant stars is VERY challenging and does not exist to- day.”

Mulder and Scully would have been proud of me asking this question and I can’t help but agree with Bryan.

Even though we seem so large in our day- to-day lives, we are nothing more than minute brush strokes of a much larger painting.

This was a great experience and I would suggest it to anyone who wants to get out for a night and learn what is above… below… and what could be watching us.

Go to blackcanyonastronomy.com to find out where they will be next!