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Star Parties, Including Oregon Coast Range, Mark Change to Fall with Glimpses Into Space

Published 09/19/23 at 5:07 a.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Star Parties, Including Oregon Coast Range, Mark Change to Fall with Glimpses Into Space

(Oregon Coast) – As you go about your day on September 22, or on the following day, you won't notice that something is different. Yet a big change has happened all around you – quite literally between you and the planets and Sun in outer space. Fall officially clicks over late on September 22, at 11:50 p.m., something which happens all around the Earth simultaneously.

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In the Portland area and not far from the Oregon coast, celebrations happen on the following night with special star gazing parties at LL Stub Stewart State Park and Rooster Rock - on September 23. OMSI and Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) puts together the astronomy shindigs on that Saturday night, along with Rose City Astronomers. They're free and they start at 9 p.m. and go until 11 p.m.

LL Stub Stewart is in the Oregon Coast Range near Highway 26 and Rooster Rock is in the Columbia Gorge.

Telescopes will be provided by volunteers and visitors are welcome to bring their own. Viewing highlights include stars, Jupiter, Saturn and more, weather permitting.

While the event is free, parking in the day-use area does require a $5 parking permit fee per vehicle. The star party at L.L. Stub Stewart also requires a free Stargazing permit, which is available at the park.

According to Jim Todd of OMSI, there's a lot of astronomy science behind this designation.


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“This is the moment in time where the Sun’s rays are directly over the equator and the days are nights are nearly equal in length,” Todd said. “The Sun’s rays continue to make their journey south, and as a result, hours of darkness will be longer than daylight. This is the reason it's called an 'equinox,' Latin word meaning 'equal.'

There's also a little astronomical quirk here. Most years, the actual day where there's equal daylight and nighttime hours is a day or three away from autumnal equinox. This year, for Oregon's coastline and the rest of the Pacific states, happen on September 23, according to EarthSky.org.

However, it's never really completely even because of our atmosphere, of all things.

Todd said the 45th parallel – which runs very close to Cascade Head on the central Oregon coast and near Portland and Salem – helps plot out the day in an interesting manner.

“At the 45th latitude North, the time it takes for the sun to fully rise and set, which is several minutes, is added to the day and subtracted from the night, and therefore the equinox day lasts a little longer than 12 hours,” Todd said. “Another reason why the day is longer than 12 hours on an equinox is that the Earth's atmosphere refracts sunlight.”

At the events, star maps will be provided along with recommended astronomy apps that visitors can load on their phones if interested.

Visitors should arrive early to familiarize themselves with the area and only park in designated spaces for the event. Overnight camping is not permitted in day-use areas, though visitors can find campground reservations by visiting stateparks.oregon.gov. Guests are expected to exit Rooster Rock by 11 p.m. as the park will close at that time.

The day of the events or just before, you should check the OMSI website in case of weather cancellations.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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