“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” –Vincent Van Gogh
Silver City is high and dry. It’s skies, when observed just 15-20 minutes north of town toward the Gila Wilderness, are very, very dark. Most likely, we owe those dark night skies to Theodore Roosevelt who in 1907, named a previously set-aside forest reserve the great Gila National Forest. We also owe our dark skies to Aldo Leopold (Author of Sand County Almanac; founder of The Wilderness Society), who, as part of his career in game management, worked to preserve wildlife.
We also owe the folks involved in the National Wilderness Preservation System, who through President Lyndon B. Johnson, worked to set aside a portion of the Gila National Forest as the Gila Wilderness in 1924; finalized in 1980. Add the Blue Range Wilderness in 1980 and you may understand why folks are inspired by a visit to Silver City.
Take Harrison Schmidt. Harrison, who was born in Santa Rita in 1935, that used to be just adjacent to Silver City, became a Harvard-grad geologist, inspired to serve the Nation as the 12th and last US astronaut to step foot on the Moon during the Apollo 17 mission.
In dedicating a signed photograph of Planet Earth taken from the Moon during Apollo 17, December, 1972, Harrison wrote: “To the Citizens & Friends of Silver City for deep appreciation for early years of preparation and later years of concern.” Silver City folks are still prepared, and still concerned.
We work to preserve our dark skies. After all, we’re at the southern terminus of the Rocky Mountains at 6,000 feet. It’s dry in a clear desert – with 5th to 7th limiting magnitudes and SQM readings averaging 21. Come visit, bring a scope (or get in contact with the Silver City Astronomical Society at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.silverastronomy.org, and be inspired. Help us preserve what we have.
With our limited development, higher altitude and bountiful “dark skies,” southwestern New Mexico is one of the premier locations in the United States for stargazing and portable astronomy.
(above text by Kathy Anderson, Silver City Astronomical Society)
More Silver City Astronomy Information:
- Upcoming Public Dates for Observatory at City of Rocks State Park 2013
- Just How Dark is a Dark Night Sky?.
- Southern New Mexico’s Endangered Night Skies
- Fred Espenak, NASA Scientist Emeritus, Presents “Predicting and Chasing Solar Eclipses”