Astronomers at Arunah Hill Days Make You Feel Right at Home (5 stars)
by Johnny Monsarrat
I founded Events INSIDER to find the secret gems of New England, and I'm eager to tell you about Arunah Hill, which is a great one.
Some avid amateur astronomers purchased a mountaintop in Western Massachusetts, far from city lights, as a permanent spot for stargazing. It's called Arunah Hill, which is more than a 2-hour drive from Boston, but it's worth it. They hold stargazing events all year, but I recently had the pleasure of being invited with friends to their big event, the annual Arunah Hill Days. It is one of only three big annual astronomy events in New England.
Dozens of hobbyist astronomers come to Arunah Hill that weekend to camp in tents and admire the starry, starry night. One told me that he had been to the most remote area of New Mexico and it wasn't any better. It is far enough from New York, Boston, and other metros for great views. All the stars you can see with the naked eye come out.
Astronomers love to show off their "toys", so they put us right at ease. Even before sunset, we had such a great time that the two friends who came with me decided to join and become members! First, they shot off model rockets, including a big one built to go up an entire mile. Then they had a raffle and campground style dinner. We learned about telescopes and got to look at the sun. I saw a coronal ejection and sun spots. Really amazing!
Then as darkness came, they held two lectures on the outdoor lunch deck that were appropriate for adults but accessible to the children in attendance. Of course, the main event came then, when President Ed Faits pointed out the constellations with a laser pointer. And then you could walk around, carefully in the dark, meeting all the astronomers and the items they chose to look at. A distant galaxy is interesting intellectually but looks like a smudge. Closeups of Saturn's rings are more like it.
Now I can find the North Star if I get lost at night and impress geeky people by finding the "teapot", Sagittarius.
This was my third time at Arunah Hill Days and I could not recommend the festival more. You don't have to camp there just to attend, just pay $10 for parking and be generous with buying raffle tickets and dinner on site.
See www.arunah.org for this event next September, or all the smaller gatherings, including volunteer-driven "build days" when they repair and enjoy the site's amenities. It's a good mix of brainy, social, and outdoorsy fun. I'm glad to give this event 5 stars.