Star gazers shoot into Merritt
Clear skies and warm weather were welcome sights over the weekend for approximately 30 people who came from all over the province to get a good look at Merritt’s night skies.
A portion of the Merritt Astronomical Society arrived on Saturday and headed to the hills just off the Okanagan Connector to get a view of the cosmos. While 30 people arrived Saturday, many more were expected over the week.
“I think it’s a fascination with the heavens,” said Clive Williams about what drives the group to observe the night sky. “I remember as a child my mother would wake me up and bring me outside to watch an eclipse of the moon and I have always been so fascinated by the stars.
“When it got to the point where I was looking for a new hobby, it was astronomy.”
He explained his fascination for not just the stars, but also the nebulas, the galaxies, the open clusters and the globular clusters.
He said the lack of light pollution and moisture makes Merritt the ideal spot.
“When you get a lot of moisture in the air, the starlight, as it comes through our atmosphere, refracts and reflects and bounces around so the stars appear to twinkle,” he explained. “When you look at them through a scope in these conditions, you can’t really get any detail.”
He has a 12-inch diameter Dobsonian-style telescope and can see spiral structures of some of the larger, brighter galaxies. Other styles that are being used include tripod-mounted three-inch scopes and a 20-inch Dobsonian-style telescope.
The group is camping at a gravel pit approximately 2.3 kilometres along Loon Lake Road off the Okanagan Connector, about 45 kilometres out of town.
“The scenery in the daytime isn’t the greatest, but the horizons are really good,” he said. “We were looking for a semi-central place that all the local clubs in B.C. could get to.”
The members come from the Lower Mainland, the Okanagan, Kamloops, Trail and Prince George, for example.
The star gazers, who have returned to Merritt for 10 years, are scheduled to stay until Sept. 16.
A total 103 people from the Society participated last year.
Anyone interested in membership can contact the Society at www.merrittastronomical.com.
People are also invited to the Annual General Meeting on site at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
A map to the location can be found on the website.