Land & Sky
We are fortunate that the Snowmass-Capitol Creek valley has some of the darkest skies in Colorado. The first-hand experience of viewing the universe with our own eyes is increasingly rare in these times of continued growth of light pollution.
Learn More About Our Night Sky...
Seeing the Universe with One's Own Eyes
by Judith Frey
Twinkle, twinkle little star . . . what wonders lie beyond you in the heavens, so far?
It's amazing to discover what lies just beyond our sight in the night sky—stunning visions that are available to us because of the optics invented by Galileo and Newton. With even a small telescope, you can discern structures that are more delicate than anything seen on earth. Millions of stars on the edge of a galaxy's spiral arms look, to our eyes, like the finest diffusion of light to strike the retina. An active galaxy with a jet streaming into space at nearly the speed of light is perceived by us, millions of light-years away, as stillness. A star-forming nebula reveals new stars that are blowing gas and dust away from them. A hot young star shines with the most luminous blue you've ever seen.
When we observe the phenomena of the universe with our own eyes, it is
an aesthetic experience, one that touches the spirit. Complete darkness allows
us to see. Our eyes take about half an hour to adapt to the dark--so the longer
we look, the more we are able to see. The transcendent experience of night that was such a part of our ancestors' lives is still possible today. With this in mind, Snowmass is applying for the designation of Dark Sky Community under the International Dark Sky Association. With a program of education, we are
encouraging residents to make the necessary adjustments to their outdoor
lighting that will protect the night sky as well as the natural patterns of animal life.
Several activities are planned for the coming year--a community star party,
astrophotography demonstrations, and a tentative trip to the MacDonald
Observatory in West Texas for a night or two of spectacular viewing on the 82-
inch telescope. For more information, contact email@example.com or 970-922-
Yearly Solar Events 2024
The latest sunrise of the year occurs on January 5 at 7:30 AM. The days have been
lengthening almost imperceptibly since the solstice on December 21, but from now on the
daylight is increasing in the morning as well as the evening.
The spring (vernal) equinox is March 19 at 9:06 PM. The sun is directly over the equator at
noon, and it rises due east and sets due west. The length of the day has been increasing more
and more rapidly since the winter solstice, to a rate of change of about 5 minutes per day.
On April 8, there is a rare, total eclipse of the sun occurring in a long path sweeping across
the eastern parts of the United States. The closest area to Colorado is in Texas, with San
Antonio being the largest city that is on the edge of the path of totality
The earliest sunrise of the year is on June 13, at 5:41 AM.
June 20 is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. At about 2:50 PM, the north pole
is tilted the closest to the sun. The sun’s angle relative to earth’s equator changes so gradually
around the solstices that the difference is almost imperceptible for about ten days. This means
that the sun rises and sets, respectively, in the same places on the horizon during that period.
The word solstice is derived from the Latin solstitium, a combination of sol, “the sun,”
and sistere, “to make stand, stand still.” The length of the day now is slightly more than 14
hours, 55 minutes.
June 25 is the day of the latest sunset of the year, at 8:40 PM. After this, the long summer
twilight begins to shorten very gradually.
On July 4, the earth reaches its aphelion, the farthest point from the sun, at 11:06 PM. At that
point, the sun and earth are separated by some 94.5 million miles--while the average distance
is around 93 million miles. Perihelion--the earth's minimum distance from the sun at 91.4
million miles--occurs on January 2, 2024, at 5:38 AM.
The fall (autumnal) equinox is September 22 at 6:43 AM; now the days and nights are nearly
equal in length. The rate of change is very rapid now; the days are getting shorter faster and
the light is dimming noticeably.
The year’s earliest sunset is on Dec. 7, at 4:45 PM. Every year I raise a glass and
offer a toast to the setting sun, for soon there will be more light in the early evening!
The winter solstice, the first day of winter, is Dec. 21 at 2:20 AM. At this time, the south
pole is tilted closest to the sun. This night is the longest of the year and the day is the shortest,
with about 9 hours and 25 minutes of daylight in Colorado.
New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, is an astronomical celebration of sorts—at about midnight, the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, reaches its highest point for the entire year!