Hancock Shaker Village after dark: A perfect spot to star gaze

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PITTSFIELD — There's something special about the night sky as seen from Hancock Shaker Village.

"Every time we have evening events here, when people are leaving the event, they look up at the sky and comment on the stars and how pretty the sky is," said Caitlin Spara, events coordinator at Hancock Shaker Village. "I looked into it and came up with a new way to love the village."

From 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, visitors will be able to fully take in the night sky above the Shaker village's wide open 20-acre campus during "A Starry Night," with lectures and demonstrations in the Village's Community Hall and telescope demonstrations held outside.

"The program is really designed for people of all sets," Spara said. "They will find out how to get started with star gazing and learn about light pollution. We'll start with the basics and how to use the equipment. People should expect to come out of the program and feel comfortable going out to star gaze."

Bob Moore, director of the Northeast Astro-Imaging Conference, will present talks with astronomers and enthusiasts, including Caroline Moore, one of the youngest people to discover a supernova. In 2009, the then-14-year-old Moore of Warwick, N.Y., found a supernova in an image taken by a 16-inch Meade LX200 telescope in Arizona. Alan Rifkin of The Electric Telescope Tour will lead demonstrations with several different kinds of telescopes for both daytime and evening viewing. Topics will range from getting acquainted with telescopes to solar viewings and using binoculars. Participants might see sunspots or solar flares during daylight, and craters on the moon to distant galaxies at night.

"There will also be a raffle for a telescope," Spara said.

The evening is family friendly, although Spara said it was best suited for children older than 6. Tickets are $25 ($22.50 for members); kids 12 and younger, $5. Walk-ins are welcome. Food and drinks will be available for purchase.

The program will be held rain or shine, Spara said. "We'll make the best of it if it rains. We'll use a solar telescope if it's raining and add some more lectures and demonstrations."

Spara said she did some research into the Shakers and astronomy, but she didn't find anything more than a few journal entries that tracked astronomical events, such as comets. However, "I'm going to continue to research it," she said. "With that view of the sky from the Village, there had to be some connection."

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