By Russ and Tiña De Maris
When you wish upon a star
makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you …
If you want to wish upon a star, you first need to see it. And that’s not usually too difficult: Step outside at night, and in most places you’ll see a few. But for those who want to do more than just wish on a star – say they want to get “up close and personal” with a star but lack a spaceship — here’s one way: Check out your favorites from an observatory in the desert Southwest.
Sure, you can make a reservation and catch the stars with a big ‘scope at an observatory that allows public access – check out Kitt Peak outside of Tucson, for example. But getting there and then home after a night viewing can be a bit tough. How about stepping out of your rig door, walking a few feet, peering through a 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain university grade telescope, and then heading back for beddy-bye without a drive?
“We have observatories spread atop the mountaintops in this area like salt and pepper,” said Ken Klein, an amateur astronomer who moved to Butterfield RV Resort in Benson from Seattle in early 2012. But while southeast Arizona’s observatories draw tourists from across the country and around the world, Klein doesn’t have to drive to see for himself. He lives at Butterfield.
A self-described “astronerd,” Klein works at Butterfield, handling desk duty by day, and giving star talks by night. “Right now, we’re looking at the Andromeda Galaxy, which is 2.5 million light-years away. We’re also looking at the planet Uranus and at globular clusters of stars just outside the Milky Way.” Klein said the star talks focus on different areas of the sky as the Earth moves to different locations around the sun. “Over the course of a month, we’ll look at a number of different objects,” he said. “We will look at planets and nebulas, which are interstellar gas clouds.”
AS MANY AS 18 PEOPLE can fit inside the Butterfield observatory at a time. The groups are limited in size so that everyone can have a chance to peer through the telescope to see the topic of the night’s discussion. “Sometimes in winter we’ll have two shows a night,” Klein said, adding that the talks start in early evening and usually conclude by 9 p.m. “We look at whatever happens to be the most interesting things in the sky in the early evening,” he said.
“Most people have never looked through a big telescope like this before,” Klein said, adding that telescopes of its size are typically only found at major universities. Of his job, Klein crows, “It’s the most fun job you can imagine.” For guests, there’s plenty of fun to share.
For more information about Butterfield RV Resort & Observatory, visit www.rv-resort.com.