The heartland of Texas isn’t the only place where the stars at night are big and bright.
And on Friday night, those stars will be more visible than ever, thanks to “Sidewalk Astronomy,” a free event for all ages at the Keystone Ancient Forest.
Sand Springs astronomy enthusiast Tim Gilliland and a group of his fellow astral aficionados from Tulsa and Broken Arrow will set up an array of telescopes in the city-owned nature preserve northwest of Sand Springs and will be on place to provide information and help to anyone who wants to take a look at the sky through devices.
The telescopes will be installed from about 8 p.m. until about midnight, weather permitting. A catch-up day is scheduled for the following evening, Saturday, if cloud cover or weather forces a postponement.
Gilliland said he will post any information about a postponement on the Astronomy Club of Tulsa and BA Sidewalk Astronomer Facebook pages, but people can also call the Keystone Ancient Forest at 918-246-7795 to check on any schedule changes. .
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Several years ago, Gilliland ran a similar program in which he took his telescopes to Case Community Park once a month, but light pollution there prevented ideal viewing, he said.
Moving the gathering to the Keystone Ancient Forest proved very popular, he said.
“We usually see between 250 and 300 people,” Gilliland said, adding that he will have three to six additional astronomers and three or four to maybe as many as seven or eight telescopes.
Gilliland himself will be bringing a 17½-inch Dobsonian-based Newtonian telescope that weighs about 225 pounds and breaks down for transport into three pieces that fill a pickup bed.
Friday night’s viewing will focus on “deep sky targets”, he said.
The moon will be visible early in the evening and Saturn should be visible for much of the event, but for anyone wanting to see Jupiter, plan to come later when the planet is high enough above the horizon. to be seen.
The rally has been suspended for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Gilliland said he looks forward to returning.
“I really like sharing it with people,” he said.
The Keystone Ancient Forest will be open Friday from 7 a.m. as usual, but instead of closing at 6 p.m., the trails will be open until 10 p.m. so visitors can take a rare nighttime hike, Jeff Edwards said. , director of city parks and parks. Recreation Department.
“People want to hike this place at night, and we usually can’t because of the staff,” he said, “but since we’re going to be there for this event anyway, we let’s allow a night hike..
“It’s fun to experience a forest in a different light.”
Edwards warned that anyone planning to venture onto the trails after dark should take a flashlight.
“It’s not like taking a nighttime walk through your neighborhood, where you have streetlights and lots of light pollution in the sky,” he said. “It’s quite the opposite in the forest. It will be very dark.
Edwards added that a compass – you can download one for free to your phone – can also be helpful for hikers who might turn around in the dark.
And finally, even though it’s late summer, nights in the woods can be a bit chilly. Friday night low temperatures are expected to be in the mid-60s with a light breeze, so visitors may wish to bring a light jacket.