Roy and Helen Hall Memorial Library brought a close to the “Universe of Stories” summer reading program with a star party with the Three Rivers Foundation on Thursday.
The Three Rivers Foundation is based in Quanah, Texas, with volunteers living in Dallas/Fort Worth. The nonprofit specializes in educating kids in astronomy and environmental sciences. The foundation primarily assists in teaching elementary schools, libraries, scouts and churches.
“Anybody who wants hands-on arts and sciences, we do all kinds of stuff,” director of astronomy Jeff Barton said. “We also have a wildlife biologist who has over a half a million pictures of bobcats, coyotes and stuff like that, and she has files for the kids to learn how to identify them.”
With games, meteor samples, simulations and scopes, visitors learned about celestial bodies like asteroids, the moon and Jupiter and how they differ from Earth in gravitational pull and composition. A sample of the moon also lay in a plaque, so children got the opportunity to stand on the moon.
The samples of meteorites gathered the largest crowd as children craned their necks so see the specimen of extraterrestrial rock. The samples were separated by composition.
“Astronomers are not known for being creative with naming things,” Barton said with a chuckle. “We name the meteorites according to what they are made of. There’s stony meteorite, iron meteorite and a mixture – stony/iron.”
A pair of binoculars and a telescope were set up by observer Richard Brown and astrophotographer Jay Ellis in the library parking lot to see the moon and Jupiter up close.
“I have some 16-by-70 binoculars, and they’re on a special mount, so whether you’re my height or a little kid’s, the moon will stay in there,” master observer Richard Brown said. “The other thing we’ll try to do is show them is how you take your phone, and take a picture of the moon.”
When the moon and Jupiter became visible around 9 p.m., visitors looked through the telescope and the binoculars.
The Star Party ended at 9:30 as Jupiter became more visible and more stars began appearing in the sky.