As a little girl, astronomer Brenda Culbertson escaped the heat by sitting outside on a blanket at night. She looked up and the night sky “caught me from there,” she said.
Culbertson has never escaped the lure of the sky. She has been interpreting the night sky for many years. She will be the featured astronomer at Mt. Sunflower Under the Stars, 6 p.m. Oct. 5 at Mt. Sunflower. The event is part of Land and Sky Scenic Byway’s dedication festivities.
Tour the night sky
Culbertson plans to offer “a little tour” of the night sky. With her laser pointer, she’ll point out objects in the sky. The moon will be a thin crescent that night. Venus, Mars and Saturn will adorn the night sky. In a dark sky, bright deep sky objects will be visible, such as the Milky Way, Andromeda Galaxy, star clusters and nebulae. “I just love to hear the oohs and aahs as people see new things. Those are the sounds of discovery.”
The Greeks gave the constellations the names we call them in Western culture, but Native Americans had their own star lore. The stories the Native Americans told changed over the centuries. Culbertson has studied them for many years and has lectured about the topic around the country.
What to bring
To tour the sky, those attending Mt. Sunflower Under the Stars should bring telescopes, binoculars and cameras without flashes, she said. Culbertson will show people how to use their devices. She said even cell phone cameras can capture good pictures of the moon.
A caravan to Mt. Sunflower will leave Stephens Restaurant at the intersection of Highways 27 and 40 in Sharon Springs at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 5. Erin Wright of Wallace will bring her food truck to Mt. Sunflower and serve a beef brisket meal for $12. Please bring lawn chairs, camp tables and cool weather gear in addition to distance viewing devices. If possible, bring flashlights with red filters to preserve night vision.
Mt. Sunflower is the highest point in Kansas at 4,039 feet. Its GPS coordinates are latitude 39.0219, longitude -102.0372. While at Mt. Sunflower, please make sure to sign the guest book!
In case of inclement weather, the event will move to Wallace County High School, 521 N. Main, Sharon Springs.