Looking up at the night sky it’s easy to wonder: What am I not seeing?

Plenty would be the short answer. A star party at the Robert Ferguson Observatory (RFO) proved that to be true.

Star parties educate novices on what’s in the night sky. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

RFO is home to the largest (40 inches in diameter) public telescope in California. In May we were looking at Arcturus, a giant red star 37 light-years away.

While RFO does research, the primary purpose is public outreach, according to a docent. A group of hyper-enthusiastic amateur astronomers regularly bring their personal telescopes to the parking lot at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in Sonoma County, where RGO is located, to let the public see what they look at on a regular basis.

While the scenery, so to speak, is always changing since the Earth is constantly rotating, the experts knew to keep adjusting the focus to make sure those of us with less than rudimentary knowledge of astronomy were looking at the “right” object in the sky.

One telescope was focused on the Cigar Galaxy, which is about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major.

So much is out there—it’s all so fascinating and a bit mind-boggling.

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