Free Star Party in Twin Falls

Rick Greenwald demonstrating the ARE -- which makes a telescope wheelchair-accessible -- at the Centennial Observatory in Twin Falls, Idaho.

If you happen to be in Twin Falls, Idaho on the second Saturday of the month, then head on over to the Herrett Center for Arts and Science for a free Star Party in the Centennial Observatory. Located on the College of Southern Idaho campus, this state of the art observatory boasts one of the world’s largest wheelchair-accessible telescopes, equipped with some cool technology that makes star gazing accessible to everyone.

So how exactly do you make a telescope wheelchair-accessible? Well, as Rick Greenwald explained to me today, by using an interesting piece of adaptive technology called the Articulated Relay Eyepiece (ARE).

The ARE is basically a swiveling extension arm that makes the out-of-reach eyepiece accessible. It attaches to the telescope and uses a series of relay lenses and folding mirrors to reposition the focal plane, so wheelchair-users can actually look through the telescope from a seated position. How cool is that?

The monthly Star Parties start one hour after sunset and run until midnight. Volunteers are on hand to help folks understand what they are seeing, so it’s a great chance to learn a little bit about astronomy. And like I said the Star Parties are free. And with the Perseids Meteor Showers coming up on August 12-13, I expect the August event will be particularly interesting.

And rest assured, there’s plenty of accessible parking at the Herrett Center, with elevator access up to the Centennial Observatory. There are about 5-6 steps up to the telescope, but if you can’t manage that, there’s also lift access. And then there is the ARE, which makes the telescope — and the heavens — completely accessible to everyone.

So stop on by the Herrett Center and see what they have to offer. It could open up a whole new world!!