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Do you ever look up into the night sky and wonder – “what is all that stuff up there; I wish I could get a closer look.” You’ll have a chance to do just that on Saturday during StarFest, at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.
The event is being hosted by the Chesmont Astronomical Society, as a way to share their knowledge of the night sky and love of astronomy with the general public.
“Anyone and everyone should come; this is an event that would be good for a six-year-old, an 86-year-old and everyone in between,” said Robert Cordivari, StarFest chairman and amateur astronomer. “We want to open the awareness of the night sky to adults and children. And for children, we hope it will get them thinking about their place in the universe and the beauty of astronomy.”
StarFest gets underway at about 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11 with the set-up of more than 20 amateur and high end telescopes. Cordivari said as many as 30 club members will be there; all amateur astronomers. But he said anyone can bring a telescope and set it up. And if you don’t have a telescope – don’t worry. Cordivari said the members of the club will answer questions and share the view.
During the course of the evening, there will be some children’s activities, with the theme of “Life on Mars,” followed by three speakers. And once it’s dark – and the stars come out – the stargazing will begin.
“We’ll see galaxies, star clusters, planetary nebula and globular clusters,” Cordivari added.
This year marks the first time Hopewell Furnace will host the event, which has been held for the past 14 years. Cordivari said the group had previously held StarFest at Warwick Township Park in Chester County.
“We moved to Hopewell because we’re trying to support the protection of the night sky around Hopewell Big Woods. We thought - what a great way to kick off the dark sky reserve by holding a star party at the epicenter,” he said.
A campaign is currently underway to make the Hopewell Big Woods area a Dark Sky Reserve through the efforts of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Lighting Council (POLC) and the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). For Cordivari and other amateur astronomers, the effort is important because it helps to preserve the sky so they can continue doing what they do.
“We want people to know if they want to keep looking through telescopes, you can’t do it if you can’t see them . It’s a ticking clock, and we’re trying to do everything to slow down the clock,” Cordivari said.
One of the highlights of the evening will be a talk by Dr. H. John Wood, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Wood is an astronomer and serves as an optical engineer for NASA. Since 1990, he has been Optics Lead Engineer on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Project. Cordivari said Wood will be sharing pictures about the HST, and will be talking about the science behind the pictures.
Another segment of the program will be an explanation of the Dark Sky Reserve by Stan Stubbe, president, Pennsylvania Outdoor Lighting Council (POLC). His organization is the Pennsylvania Chapter of the International Dark Sky Initiative. In addition, the co-founder of the Chesmont Astronomical Society, Karl Krasley will speak about the organizations’ 26 years of amateur astronomy.
The group had scheduled the event at Hopewell Furnace last year, but Mother Nature had other ideas. A tropical storm quickly followed by a hurricane forced the event to be rescheduled and then ultimately cancelled.
“We were so disappointed last year, because we had put so much into it and we were going to be in a new location. But we’re resilient and we’re very excited about this year,” Cordivari added.
Visitors are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs to sit on. Cordivari said there will be food available, or visitors can bring a picnic. Each person attending StarFest will be given a ticket to enter them for a chance to win one of several door prizes including binoculars and telescopes.
“These are good telescopes for beginners, but they aren’t toys,” he said. “They are terrific prizes for anyone looking to get started. They are good quality that can be used for a lifetime.”
Visitors to StarFest should park in the main parking lot at the Hopewell Furnace Visitor’s Center. From there you will be directed to the observance field. Anyone bringing a flashlight, is asked to wrap the light in red cellophane. Chesmont members will provide red cellophane to you if you don’t have it. Cordivari said white light will cause people to lose their night vision. Red light is a longer wave length – and doesn’t impact night vision.
The rain/cloud date for the event will be Sunday, Aug. 12.
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is located at 2 Mark Bird Lane, Elverson, five miles south of Birdsboro off of Route 345. More information about the program is available by calling Hopewell at 610-582-8773 or visiting the Chesmont Astronomical Society website at www.chesmontastro.org.