Back in Business
I am happy to announce we are finally back in business and would like to wish each of you a warm welcome back. We’ve missed you!
COVID-19 created a sudden, unexpected demand throughout the nation’s national parks for safe, outdoor spaces to facilitate educational lectures and interpretive events in the nation’s national parks.
Do keep in mind, when you visit the park you’ll notice a few changes. No more than 10 visitors are allowed into the visitor center at a time and like so many other businesses around the nation, our front desk now sports a plexi-glass shield.
One of our main priorities is the health and safety of both our staff and our visitors! We do not require you to wear masks inside the Visitor Center, but please remember those who visit and work here at the park range in ages, so, it is deeply appreciated when you do.
Finally, despite our many successes so far this year, the painful reality of COVID-19 is Rim Rock Book Store lost three months of sales we may never recover. The continuing loss of international visitors and tours who bring millions to the Grand Valley every year, will impact both CNMA and the Grand Valley in the months ahead.
If you, your family or your company are in a position to make any donation to CNMA, even a small one, we are deeply appreciative and assure you donations fund much needed projects, including Junior Rangers!
As you think about yearly or legacy giving, please consider what our ancient sheltering canyons have meant to you. You can give back, open new worlds to locals and visitors and ensure your future generations a place to learn, hike and heal. There is no finer place in the world than the one John Otto rightly called “the heart of the world”.
We wish you and your families continued safety and the very best of health throughout 2020. Please come see us, and enjoy a hike, sunrise or sunset from the top of the canyons. We miss our old friends and are eager to welcome you back. If you’ve already been in and said, “Hello”, thank you and we’ll see you next time!
Thanks as always,
Michael Paxson, CNMA staff & Board of Directors
Have you ever gazed up at the stars on a clear moonless night in wonder and appreciation for the beauty of the night sky? Perhaps you have said to yourself, “I would love to know more about the night sky.” It seems daunting as you look up at all the stars.
Here in the Grand Valley, we have access to dark skies in Rabbit Valley, Grand Mesa and Colorado National Monument. There are many resources available to help you on your quest and you only need a few basic hints to get started. So, let’s begin.
Most people can recognize the Big Dipper, so it is a good place to start. The Big Dipper is not a constellation, but an asterism or an easily recognizable pattern within a constellation. The entire constellation is referred to as Ursa Major, the great bear, and the handle of the dipper is the tail of the bear.
One fun fact involves Alcor and Mizar, two stars positioned in the middle of the Big Dipper handle. To many people, they appear as one star, but to those who have excellent vision, two stars are visible on a dark night.
The Romans used these two stars as an eye test for their military. If a soldier could see two stars with the naked eye, they became an archer. If they could only see one star, they became a foot soldier. Test your eyesight the next time you look at the Big Dipper.
The two front stars of the ladle of the big dipper are the pointer stars and they can be used to find Polaris, also known as the North Star.
If you extend an imaginary straight line up from the two pointer stars, the next star you will see in the sky is the North Star. The North Star is motionless while the rest of the celestial bodies in the sky appear to rotate around it.
The stars in the sky do not actually move, they are stationary. They appear to move due to the earth’s rotation. The North Star is located at celestial north above the earth.
Think of an imaginary line running north-south through the earth’s axis. The North Star is along that imaginary line. Because of its position, it can be used to find the latitude of your location thus for hundreds of years sailors in the northern hemisphere have used this star to navigate.
To find your latitude in the northern hemisphere all you need is the North Star and 2 fingers. The width of the index and middle finger together equals 5 degrees. Hold them parallel to the horizon. Moving the fingers up to the north star, count how many finger-widths it takes to get to the North Star then multiply by 5 degrees. That will give you your current latitude.
By using the Big Dipper, you can also find the 4th brightest star in the sky, Arcturus. Locate the last star in the handle of the big dipper and arc to Arcturus as shown in the diagram.
Arcturus is in the constellation Boötes also known as the Ploughman. Boötes was said to have invented the plough and the goddess of agriculture was so pleased that she honored him by placing him in the sky as a constellation. Boötes is visible in the night sky until the end of June.
Many resources and applications are available online. One online application is Stellarium. It provides a realistic sky simulation just like the one you see with the naked eye at night by giving you the location of stars, constellations, planets, and more. As you may expect Nasa also provides great information.
Now that you are equipped with a few tools and quick tips to get started in your astronomical exploration go out and enjoy your starry skies.
Paula Willoughby is a returning seasonal park ranger at Colorado National Monument. She has given many astronomy programs at the Monument and she is often asked, “How do I learn about the night sky?” She wanted to provide steps that will help you begin your quest.
She hopes to be gazing through telescopes alongside you in the future.
All night sky illustrations are from earthsky.org.
Summer 2020 Astronomical Events
Johanna van Waveren
Temperatures are warming up and many of us are heading for the woods to camp or staying up later to enjoy the cooler night air, so it’s an ideal time to do some stargazing. Listed below are some upcoming astronomical events to check out.
July 4th – Penumbral Lunar Eclipse – Only the outer shadow of the Earth (the penumbra) falls on the moon’s face. These eclipses are subtle and difficult to observe; observant folks will notice a dark shading on the moon’s face.
July 14th – Jupiter at Opposition – On this night Jupiter is more or less opposite the sun in Earth’s sky, rising in the east around sunset, settling highest around midnight, and setting in the west around sunset. It is visible all night and most significant perhaps is that it is closest to Earth this day and so it will appear brightest.
July 20th – Saturn at Opposition – Similar to the above description, we go between Saturn and the sun. Saturn will be closest to Earth and brightest on this night. Enjoy from your backyard or better yet, use a telescope to enjoy Saturn’s rings on this evening. It’s also a new moon night, so Saturn can really shine bright.
July 20th – The scheduled launch of NASA’s “Perseverance” Mars Rover – This rover will search for signs of past microbial life, determine details of Mar’s climate and geology, collect samples, and help pave the way for human exploration on Mars.
July 27th – Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower – Showers will peak before dawn today with about 20 meteors per hour. Not the most spectacular meteor shower of the year, and perhaps you’ll want to wait for the next, more active shower…
August 12th – Perseid Meteor Shower – Meteor showers will peak before dawn today with about 90 per hour. This is a favorite meteor shower of mine. I hope ya’ll enjoy the show!
Colorado National Monument Association Walks and Talks Series
We are continuing to be cautious during this pandemic and so we have paused Walks and Talks to stay as safe as possible.
Meanwhile we are working on some virtual hikes that will take you on journeys through the Monument while you sit comfortably at home.
Thanks for the understanding and we look forward to seeing you face-to-face in the (hopefully) near future!
Johanna van Waveren
Social distancing, stay-at-home order, mandatory facemasks: these were terms new to my vernacular. It took me weeks to get used to not shaking people’s hands and giving hugs. We are social creatures that were suddenly asked to not be social.
We all found our lives turned upside down a few months ago as COVID-19 numbers were rising quickly in the US and Governor Polis issued a Stay-at-Home order.
The public safety alert issued to everyone on March 25th stated, “Everyone needs to stay at home except to go to an essential workplace, seek necessary medical care, or to do an essential task like going to the grocery store or walking a pet.”
Since we’re Coloradans our idea of an “essential task” included mountain biking, floating down the Colorado River, and hiking. The outdoors helped to keep people sane during this frightening time.
We are so lucky to live where we do for many reasons, but it became abundantly clear that the amount of public land in Western Colorado and the amount of area to spread out and remain socially distanced was a huge blessing to us in this dark time.
When we weren’t recreating outdoors, we got creative while cooped up in our homes. I was amazed to see people’s ingenuity to stay connected to loved ones and to stay entertained.
Septaugenarians mastered Zoom and Facetime to keep in touch with family members. Musicians in bands still found ways to create music together while being miles apart.
I was amazed to discover the amount of free, on-line workout, and yoga classes. I participated in virtual book clubs, “met” my boyfriend’s family for the first time via video chats, and much more.
We all adapted despite our social natures. I know it wasn’t easy for many folks, but others picked up musical instruments they hadn’t touched in years, started a new hobby, or just spent more time with their families.
A giant pause button was pressed on our lives and I think it really caused many people to stop and reflect. It caused them to understand what was truly important in their lives and I hope this lesson was learned and that it will carry into non-COVID times. I hope we make more conscious decisions that are less affected by the general busy-ness of our lives.
I really enjoyed the following words by Julio Vincent Gambuto, so I will leave you with this message.
“At no other time, ever in our lives, have we gotten the opportunity to see what would happen if the world simply stopped. Here it is. We’re in it. Stores are closed. Restaurants are empty. Streets and six-lane highways are barren. Even the planet itself is rattling less (true story). And because it is rarer than rare, it has brought to light all of the beautiful and painful truths of how we live…From one citizen to another, I beg of you: take a deep breath, ignore the deafening noise, and think deeply about what you want to put back into your life. This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the [rubbish] and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud.”Julio Vincent Gambuto
For the full article by Gambuto, visit Medium’s website.
A Fun, Virtual Activity for the Whole Family
Sam Heinritz, training specialist at Colorado National Monument, has provided us with a fun, interactive activity.
It is a Google Earth tour of public lands throughout the Grand Valley including McInnis, the Grand Mesa, and Colorado National Monument.
There are descriptions for each site, pictures, and you can explore these places independently from the tour.
Instructions: Click on the button below and let Google Earth load. Then you can select “Present.” Click through the tabs next to the “Table of Contents” to take a tour of the public lands in our area. From here you can click through images and explore the area by zooming in and out as well as moving through the map.
Have fun virtually exploring the lands in our “backyard.”
Colorado National Monument Association is wishing everyone a happy and fun-filled summer.
We thank you for helping to support this treasure of a place!
This news was edited from Colorado National Monument Association‘s newsletter. For the full version and to be put on their mailing list, email Johanna van Waveren.