NIGHT SKY PROGRAMS (3.5 hours)
The Night Sky Programs at Chimney Rock National Monument offer two different opportunities to observe the stars where the ancient Puebloans did 1,000 years ago; The Stars & Galaxies Program and the Our Solar System Program.
The Stars & Galaxies Program is timed for when the moon is absent from the sky, enabling guests to enjoy the night sky in a truly dark-sky environment and see deep-sky objects such as binary stars, globular star clusters, open clusters, various nebulae and other galaxies.
The Our Solar System Program is timed for when the moon is present in the sky but not fully illuminated so guests can enjoy the night sky unimpeded by artificial lighting or the brightness of a full moon, and see many of the brighter objects that are visible. It is especially enjoyable to view the partial moon through a telescope because features near the terminator (the boundary between the lit and unlit portions of the moon) stand out in particularly high contrast and are easy to discern.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
For both programs, the Hwy 151 Entry Gate will open an hour before sunset for check-in and and instructions for the evening’s event. Guests will proceed to the Amphitheater for the first part of the program, an introductory talk including topics such as how the ancient people who periodically inhabited the site used the unique landscape of the Chimney Rock area to view the sky, and what special astronomical events they might have seen.
All Night Sky programs are designed to include telescope viewing by attendees, and we hope restrictions will be lifted in 2021 to allow this activity. But, since the virus can be spread by moisture of the eye contacting a telescope eye-piece, we may need to omit this activity for the safety of all. Also, weather conditions occasionally prevent telescope viewing.
If telescope viewing is planned, you’ll then drive to the High Mesa parking lot, where volunteers await with telescopes. At the viewing area, each telescope will focus on a different feature and volunteers will change that focus periodically during the viewing time. Viewing is scheduled to continue until about one hour after maximum darkness. Guests may depart from the viewing are whenever they choose.
If we are not ale to use the telescopes, expert volunteers will give an expanded talk about how the ancient people who periodically inhabited the site used the unique landscape of the Chimney Rock area to view the sky, what special astronomical events they might have seen or other topics relevant to this special place. Bring your questions!
Remember that at this altitude the nights begin to cool rapidly after sunset, so an appropriate jacket or sweater will enable you to remain comfortable while you enjoy the majesty of the night sky at Chimney Rock. This program is perfect for young families and those with limited mobility.
Guests must enter through the Hwy 151 entry gate during the check-in period stated below; the gate will be locked at the end of that time. Tickets are $16.00 (adults) and $8.00 (children 5-12) plus booking fee, and are non-refundable. In the event of cancellation due to inclement weather, rain checks will be available. For details, please call the Visitor Cabin (970-883-5359) 9:00 – 4:00 Mountain Time.
Reservations strongly recommended. Limited space. Walk-ins on a first-come, first-serve basis.