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Star parties take a look into space

Jim GrantAstronomer Chris Johnson displays one of the many telescopes he provides the public at his star parties.

If you ever wondered what 1,600 light years into space looks like, join Chris Johnson and other astronomers at their next star party at The Nature Conservancy on Genoa Lane.

The Douglas chapter of the Astronomical Society of Nevada host star parties the fourth Friday of the month at 6:30 p.m.

“A bunch of members get together and set up our telescopes so the public can come out and look at the night sky,” Johnson said. “We look at pretty much everything. One of the biggest things is the moon. We also look at the planets. Right now we have Jupiter in the sky.”

The Astronomical Society of Nevada started in 1934, but the Douglas chapter got started in November when they hosted their first star party.

“Close to 35 people came. We had great reviews,” Johnson said. “People were very excited about it.”

While the Andromeda Galaxy and Orion Nebula sound like places Capt. Picard and the Starship Enterprise would visit, Johnson said they can all be seen if you know when and where to look.

“Right now in early evening there’s a pretty bright star out above the eastern horizon, and if you see that through a telescope, you’ll see that it’s Jupiter,” he said. “You can also see the four moons of Jupiter. Everything depends on the season because of our orbit around the sun.”

The 40-year-old Indian Hills resident became interested in astronomy six years ago after his father gave him a telescope for Christmas.

“My primary love with astronomy is astrophotography. I take pictures of deep space.” Johnson said. “I enjoy seeing the vastness of it, and realizing how small we are. And being able to look out in space and see the beautiful things around our planet.”

Johnson and other astronomers will have three or four telescopes set up at the Nature Conservancy pointed at different spots in the sky.

The public is also invited to bring their own telescopes.

“We have kids that are 6 and 7 years old come out. I have a step stool for my telescope,” Johnson said. “If it’s cloudy, we don’t do star parties, but if we have a little bit of open sky we’ll still have them.”

At the star parties Johnson gives a brief presentation about astronomy and what the public will be viewing that night. He will also be able to answer any questions.

“A lot of people confuse astronomy with astrology and they’re not the same,” he said. “Astronomy is strictly science, and it’s the study of space.”

The next star party is Jan. 25 when Jupiter and the Great Orion Nebula will be viewable.

For more information, call Johnson at 461-6135, or visit,


What: Star party

When: 6:30 p.m., Jan. 25

Where: The Nature Conservancy, 381 Genoa Lane

Cost: Free to the public

Info: Chris Johnson, 461-6135