SKY VILLAGE: small southeastern Arizona town offers great view of the sky above

- Light pollution has made it nearly impossible to see the stars at night in a urban areas like Phoenix. That means people will have to get out of town to get a good view.

If one is serious about astronomy, however, it's better to get as further and further away from cities and towns.

Like Sky Village. It is about a five-hour drive away from Phoenix, in a very small corner of extreme Southeast Arizona.

"We are, like, 60 miles north of the Mexico border, and almost on the New Mexico border," said Rick Beno.

Most of the 22 homes out at Sky Village are for astronomers, and Sky Village is a little housing development that is catered to to astronomy. Telescope domes can be seen popping up out of the desert everywhere. Beno himself has a couple of telescopes at his Sky Village home.

"I did a lot of Astrodynamics in my career," said Beno. "Satellite navigation rendezvous, math airplane navigation and stuff like that."

Beno and his wife moved to Sky Village years ago.

"We don't even have porch lights here," said Beno. "We have them, but we aren't allowed to turn them on."

"I've always wanted to live someplace where I could go out at night, and see a dark sky," said Fred Espenak, who is a full-time resident of Sky Village. He lives there when he is not chasing down a solar eclipse.

"The last one was in Indonesia, about a year and quarter ago," said Espenak, who is called "Mr. Eclipse." Espenak's next big opportunity will be in August, when parts of the U.S. will see a total solar eclipse.

"It's the first total eclipse through the Continental U.S. in 38 years, and I'll be traveling up to Casper, Wyoming to photograph it," said Espenak.

Usually, however, one can fine Espenak watching the night sky at Sky Village, because in sky village, one can still see the night sky.

"In this day and age, with electric lights lighting up cities 24 hours a day, it never gets dark," said Espenak.

Unlike Espenak, some people, like Mike Patton, live in Sky Village only part time. Patton, who is with the Kalamazoo Astronomical Society, was setting up a telescope in Sky Village that his club can operate remotely back in Michigan.

"Michigan, in the winter, we don't see stars at all," said Patton. "This allows them to get a dark sky, very dark sky."

Jim Janusz, meanwhile, moved his telescope from Palm Desert in California.

"dark skies are necessary, especially when doing visual imaging," said Janusz. "When you have a village like this, everyone wants to do the same thing, so you don't have to complain about anybody. Everybody wants to do it. It's just part of being here."

Being in Sky Village after sunset means the lights go out, or at least turn red. Even Beno's computer screen has a red glow, in order to protect his night vision.

Beno said he likes it when students come up for a field trip.

"I do outreach with Tucson high school kids, Tucson middle school kids," said Beno. "This last year, we had a grade school class here."

Beno said the kids sometimes think their views of Saturn through the telescope are fake, but he sad the views are genuine.

Like others in Sky Village, Beno uses a camera, but he also likes a little hands-on astronomy.


Sky Village
www.conferringwiththesky.org
www.astroimager.net
www.mreclipse.com
www.kasonline.org

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