Las Vegas Astronomical Society member Rob Lambert holds the simulated sun as member Julian Shull displays the orbit of the earth and moon to Child Scouts at their camp on Mt. Potosi on Tuesday, June 23, 2015.
Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015|2 a.m.
Las Vegas Astronomical Society and Scouts
Introduce slideshow “
Jim Gianoulakis was 8 years old the first time he touched a telescope. On a summertime night, his mother drove him and his sister to the enormous Griffith Observatory ignoring Los Angeles, hoping to offer her youngsters a memory they would not forget.
Gianoulakis strolled over to a telescope and peered in. Sandy, beige-colored Saturn hovered, its rings pronounced against the clear night sky. It looked so actual, Gianoulakis thought it was as though a sticker had actually been plastered onto the eyepiece.
“Wow, wow,” he kept whispering to his mom.
To this day, Gianoulakis keeps in mind that moment.
“There was something in the sky that I could not see with just my eyes,” he says. “The method it presents itself in the telescope, it’s like, ‘Is this genuine?’ I was connected.”
Gianoulakis, now 60, is a long time member of the Las Vegas Astronomical Society, a 35-year-old club that includes about 100 amateur astronomers. Their goal: making the public more knowledgeable about the wonders of the night sky.
Each month, the society has complimentary stargazing celebrations at numerous locations, consisting of Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center. The occasions have actually attracted a large following. When the astronomers welcomed the public last year to the Neon Museum, about 1,300 people came.
“In our daily lives, we don’t realize what’s up there,” society member Keith Caceres stated. “You widen minds by showing our place in this world.”
The society recently embraced a brand-new mission: cultivating an interest in astronomy in the next generation.
After getting a high-end telescope as a contribution from a North Carolina amateur astronomer, society members found they had no place to put it. The telescope, which has the exact same optical design as the Hubble Space Telescope, deserves about $40,000.
So club president Rob Lambert struck a deal with the Las Vegas chapter of the Kid Scouts of America: Members of the Astronomical Society would get to utilize some of the Boy Scouts’ land at Mount Potosi, about an hour southwest of the Strip, if the astronomers would teach the children about stars, galaxies, worlds and moons.
The astronomers didn’t have to hesitate.
“We do not have a club big enough with the cash to purchase a tract where we can put an observatory,” Lambert said.
And Patrick Ballinger, the Child Scouts’ summertime camp director, was more than pleased to deal with the astronomers.
“I desired these people to put interest for astronomy into these Scouts,” Ballinger said. “Let’s say from these 80 children who are here, a quarter of these children become interested. They may be teaching the next Scouts.”
Surrounded by dry brush and blue skies at the top of Mount Potosi, Lambert and Caceres start the routine of establishing their telescopes. They work half the time in extreme silence, gingerly putting their stands and scopes on a tabletop and cleaning off specks of dust that land on the aperture and eyepiece. After an hour of lifting, twisting and changing, the job is done.
They have about two hours prior to the Boy Scouts arrive, sufficient time to gibber amongst themselves and with other society members about who gets to point his telescope at which celestial object.
“I got Pluto,” Lambert said.
“I have Saturn,” Caceres stated.
Behind the astronomers stands their contributed telescope, protected by a white dome that appears like a metal igloo. With its high-quality optics and precisely ground mirrors, the gadget can catch high-definition photographs of celestial items, which society members want to offer to the Clark County School District. They likewise intend to connect the telescope to a live stream that students can see online in class.
“I have no idea if we will turn out the next Carl Sagan, but I don’t believe that’s the vital part,” Gianoulakis said. “If we bring in a children’s curiosity and develop in them the desire to check out, I think that’s something that will serve them well.”
It’s 8 p.m. Although the light of the Strip continues to be noticeable over the mountaintops, the sky is dark enough for the stars to impress. In the range, screams and laughs from Scouts can be heard.
“Here they come,” Lambert whispers.
An hour later on, the astronomers are overwhelmed by about 80 Scouts, hassling one another for a possibility to peer into a telescope.
“Look at this one!” one yells. “Whoa, people, look!” follows another.
One child peers into Caceres’ telescope and beckons for his friend.
“You can see the rings of Saturn!” the boy screams in pleasure. “It’s soooo cool. It’s all real! It’s not a photo.”
Julie Ann Formoso can be reached at 702-948-7836 or [email protected]!.?.!. Follow Julie Ann on Twitterat twitter.com/Julieannformoso.