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Tue May 14, 2013
New Observatory Offered At Leasburg Park
At Leasburg Dam State Park, a new observatory will allow visitors to receive a closer look at the stars.
Evaristo Giron has been the manager at Leasburg Dam State Park in Radium Springs for about the last five years. He’s grown into a jack-of-all trades while working here.
“I helped plaster this building, to this pathway that you see behind me that we’re standing on to doing the law enforcement to applying for grants and administering grants.”
Whatever it takes, he says, to make Leasburg dam more fun to visit.
The park has a playground for families to enjoy, but it’s what’s next to the playground that has park officials and nearby astronomers excited. The park now features an observatory with a telescope 16 inches in diameter…able to see far-away images…farther than some of the already impressive images captured by local astronomical society members.
Ron Kramer has been wondering about the night sky ever since a cloudy night in Brooklyn. He was 5 years old. “I looked up at the sky and I saw what appeared to be just a giant clock in the sky. And I asked my mom and she didn’t know what that is. And I asked my dad – he didn’t know what it was. So I asked my teacher, and he said oh it’s probably the moon,” said Kramer.
Meteorology lead to astronomy – and today – Kramer is still looking up at the stars. He is the past president of the astronomical society of Las Cruces and co-chair of the Leasburg Dam Observatory initiative.
“The original concept was that our society was going to ply for the materials and that the park would build the observatory, said Kramer.
But instead, the park system paid for the structure and nmsu provided a telescope that was no longer being used.
“And I just figured it was a great opportunity for our visitors to enjoy the park at night…”
Giron also gets to design the park’s programming as manager.
“…That is the reason a lot of folks come out here is to enjoy the night sky. We have had numerous stargazing parties prior to this observatory that were a success and so that told me that there was a high interest for this type of programming,” said Giron.
Kramer and the astronomical society decided Leasburg dam would be close enough to Las Cruces to encourage visitors, but far enough away from a constellation you may not be familiar with.
“…El Paso nebula.” That’s because it’s not exactly a constellation. “What other people call it is the light dome,” said Kramer.
Increased light from the city obscures some of the night sky to the south. It’s also known as light pollution.
“It can reach over 90 degrees from side to side.”
Here at Leasburg, it’s less pronounced while still being a short drive from Las Cruces. “Instead of 90 degrees, it’s more like 60 degrees,” said Kramer.
As the summer heats up, Giron and Kramer will be rolling back the roof at night so families can come enjoy the stars through a new lens. Maybe even a 5-year-old will be there and look up, and ask his mom and dad and teacher what it is he’s looking at.
More information on all park events is at newmexicoparks.com. A summer program at Leasburg Dam Park called “Music Under the Stars” is set to begin June 16. Admission is $5 per car.