Night sky becomes source of wonder for Northstar-gazers | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Night sky becomes source of wonder for Northstar-gazers

Susan Wood

Susan Wood / Tahoe Daily Tribune Northstar-at-Tahoe has a full-service recreation center with three swimming pools, a tennis camp and game room.

TRUCKEE – Northstar-at-Tahoe lives up to its name with outdoor activities.

Some fill up the day. Some mark the night – as in the Truckee ski area’s third annual stargazing tour on its golf course grounds.

Last Friday night, a vivid black sky minus the moon provided an excellent backdrop for viewing stars with Tony Berendsen, past president of the Astronomical Society of Nevada.

Berendsen, who occasionally operates the University of Nevada, Reno’s planetarium observatory, hosted a crowd of 26 people who eagerly lined up at two telescopes aimed toward the sky.

They first viewed a binary star called Albireo – one in a hue of red, another in blue.

Participants turned off the Northstar-provided flashlights to get a clean glimpse of the Milky Way, which was particularly dusty that night.

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A shooting star flew by and the crowd gasped.

They also noticed a satellite flying by at 18,000 mph- with one man insisting it was a plane. He was denounced by the majority.

Berendsen told the group the international space station – which travels at the same speed – can often be seen from Northstar skies. That evening, he pointed out the Vega star 26 light years away.

“People have always been fascinated with the stars. But it’s helped this year by the Mars Rover expedition,” he said, adding that attendance has increased in the last few years.

Along with construction on its village phases going on now, Northstar has bumped up its level of activities. There’s an 18-hole golf course and a mountain bike park off the Vista Express quad chairlift that rivals some of the most challenging Sierra Mountain terrain.

The runs are named as creatively as the equipment and clothing – Dog Bone, Pho Dogg, Stick & Stones, Tor’s Hammer and Flameout.

Hikers share most of the routes, with the Sawmill Lake Hiking Trail designated just for those on foot leading to a reservoir tucked in the woods.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com