Touring Texoma: Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus

 On the far western side of our viewing area, there's progress to report at Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus.
     It really started taking shape about 7- years ago.
          But then, skyrocketing costs of materials after Hurricane Katrina, and the recession, pushed back projects, like a visitor's center.
         Massive telescopes are there, though, among its already impressive infrastructure.
          And, that's the real attraction for students and teachers, and possibly you.
         Those just anxious to see the far reaches of our galaxy, and even far away galaxies, from basically our own back yard.
  Jeff Barton: "That's Mare Crisium, and that's the size of Oklahoma."
      Here's a view of the moon most people will never see for themselves.
      It's one available to all of us at Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus through this 15- inch refractor telescope.
        They say it's the largest in Texas used on a regular basis for public events.
     Jeff Barton:  "Some things like the moon, that light's only a few seconds old.  It took 8- and a half minutes to get from the sun.  Only a few seconds to bounce off the moon and get to your eye.  When you look at the light from Jupiter, it's hours old.  You look at the light from some of these galaxies, it's millions of years it takes that light to get here.  As soon as it gets to your eye, it's converted to a nerve impulse and it's gone forever."
        But, it's not lost when you see it, from up close, out here.
      The more than 700- acre Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus is under the umbrella of 3 Rivers Foundation, and serves schools from Bowie, to Childress to Abilene.
         It sits about 15- miles west of Crowell, and several miles off highway 70.
         Director of Sciences, Jeff Barton says basically it's an ever- growing outdoor education center.
      Jeff Barton: "So, this is a turtle habitat.. have a project to re- establish the box turtle."
         "This is our outdoor classroom.  It has deep sinks.  We do science experiments here."
         "We can do hikes.  We have a beaver pond.  We have a prairie dog town.  We have a GPS course.  And, the scouts like to spread out.  They like to take 2- hour hikes not half hour."
         "So, this is our bunk house."
        "Our volunteers stay here when we're giving a star party."
            And, those star parties, really, make up the bigger part of what this campus is all about.
       Jeff Barton:  "So, there's a lunar and planetary telescope in this dome, and there are solar telescopes in this dome.  That one has a galaxy telescope and a camera, but it's not in there right now.  It's in town in storage.  And, the one down there is a 22- binocular telescope."
        It really is amazing just how dark this sky is out here between Crowell and Peducah.  Just with the naked eyes, I've never seen the stars so crystal clear.  And, when you look through the telescope, it looks as though there's a picture on the other end.  Jeff said it best, this truly is an opportunity.
      Jeff Barton: "Our volunteers have the opportunity to come out here and do their own stuff as well as support us.  Teachers have the opportunity to come out here and learn and teach. They can use our campus and teach.  Students have the opportunity to come out here and learn just about anything."
       Russell Horn/Volunteer:  "We get scouts out here, teachers, professors.  We give then information to take back to the classroom." 
       Vance Bagwell/Volunteer: "Hosting star parties, children are by far very excited to get behind a telescope.  Sometimes it's their first time to look through a telescope into the night sky, and seeing that joy and excitement and hearing them run off and telling their parents how excited and how much fun they're having is really worth while."
       Jeff Barton: "We get a lot of wows.  I like to say I'm in the astonishment business, because the first time you look through that eye piece at Jupiter, especially Saturn, you don't believe it's real."
        Russell Horn says all of these images were taken through  telescopes here at Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus.
          And very soon, they'll be available for students to see live over the internet.
         Russell Horn:  "You know, for them to understand they're just a very small part of the universe.  Open their eyes up to the sky, and get them to look up, because there's so much to see."
         In fact our own star, shot through a filter, is among an estimated 200- to 400- billion stars just in our galaxy alone.
          It's estimated there are over 100- billion galaxies in the known universe!
          That's a lot of reasons to take interest in what's out there for sure, but also to take advantage of this Texoma treasure, that can easily be found on your Tour of Texoma.
         On June 5th, Venus will pass between the Earth and the Sun, and that won't happen again for 125- years.
           Comanche Springs is going to be sending the results of what they record on that to NASA.
            But, that would also be a great night for everyone else to be out there, to see that for themselves!
            If you'd like information on how and when you can visit Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus, just call 940-684-1670.

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