CHESTERTON | When admiring the heavens, you can’t let a few clouds get in your way.
So when skies turned overcast Saturday evening, an outdoor public stargazing session at Indiana Dunes State Park was simply moved indoors.
Larry Maka, a member of the Calumet Astronomical Society, was prepared, displaying his 16-inch telescope and a PowerPoint presentation, “Through a Looking Glass, An Amateur Astronomer’s View of the Sky,” at the park’s Nature Center.
“I’m going to try to key into some of the things we would have seen tonight,” said Maka.
Maka said the 75-member Calumet Astronomical Society was founded in 1975 and meets monthly at the Merrillville Community Planetarium at Pierce Middle School. The group also hosts programs at the Calumet Astronomy Center at the Buckley Homestead in Lowell.
The purpose of the club, he said, is to promote education of astronomy and socialize with others who enjoy learning about the night sky.
At the park’s presentation, Maka discussed the Northern Lights, solar flares, comet ISON — which is anticipated in November — and the Perseid meteor shower in August.
“These events that are not day to day type of things get people really excited about astronomy,” Maka said.
He said the next “supermoon” will display June 23.
“When you get a full moon and it’s at its closest distance to earth, they call this a supermoon,” Maka explained. “This is not an unusual event, this happens once a year or so.”
Maka encouraged audience members to feed their passion for stargazing, as he did ten years ago when he joined club members in the beach parking lot to look through their high-powered telescopes.
“The first time I saw Saturn, it just about blew me away,” Maka said. “Shortly thereafter, I joined the CAS to learn a little bit more about astronomy.”
Brad Bumgardner, the park’s interpretive naturalist, said although the annual stargazing program has been rained out the past three years, the enthusiasm for stargazing remains strong among park visitors.
“There is a lot of interest in the dunes for stargazing programs,” Bumgardner said. “This is a great location locally … with nothing but dark sky to the north, this is a great place to do that.”
Friends Nicole Reeves and Susan Tarr used the program as a girls’ night out and a chance to brush up on their constellations.
“I like the stars and I like astrology,” said Tarr, of Laporte. “But when I look up at the sky, I don’t know what I’m looking at.”
Reeves said she and Tarr appreciated the opportunity to learn something new.
“We teach each other stuff,” said Reeves. “Isn’t that why we’re in this world — to teach each other stuff?”