Complimentary Star Observation and Night Sky Viewing at Ruby Mountain – Authored by Carly Winchell

The Friends of Brown’s Canyon are hosting a free stargazing event on May 17 at the Ruby Mountain parking area. This event is part of their quest to achieve International Dark Sky Park certification for the Browns Canyon National Monument. Attendance is limited to fifteen people and those interested must register via email.

The group will provide telescopes for the attendees to use during their stargazing session. Victor Aziz, an astronomy enthusiast, will kick off the event with a tutorial on how to read and use the Sky Map. He will then guide a quick tour of the night sky, identifying celestial bodies visible to the naked eye or with binoculars using a laser. Around 8:45 p.m., Aziz will guide telescope observations of the moon’s landscape.

Participants are encouraged to bring camp chairs and water for their comfort. They are also advised to bring red flashlights or red headlamps, as red-colored lights help preserve night vision. This is because the rods in our eyes, which are responsible for night vision, are less sensitive to red light. Brighter lights, especially white ones, can disrupt night vision.

According to Jim O’Connor of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association, rhodopsin, a key player in night vision, takes about 20 to 40 minutes for humans to start benefiting from. It is photoreactive and can be neutralized by a few seconds of bright light, stopping the rods from working, and restarting the cycle. Red lights do not trigger this reaction, hence their use by astronomers and safety officials. However, bright red lights can still reduce rhodopsin, so dimmer red lights are recommended.

To create a red light, any flashlight can be covered with red cellophane, or the lenses can be painted red with nail polish or a marker. A number of headlamps come with a built-in red light setting, and there are also astronomy flashlights available online. The Friends of Brown’s Canyon are dedicated to maintaining dark skies as part of their application for International Dark Sky certification. This event is one of their initiatives in this pursuit.

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