Dig Baton Rouge

Seeing Stars

Highland Road Park Observatory offers a galactic experience

October is for being outdoors, and there’s no better place in Baton Rouge to do that then the Highland Road Park Observatory. This city is filled with lights and busy streets, but secluded off Highland Road is the perfect place to look up at the stars or occasionally see a planet through their indoor and outdoor telescopes. Between the Friday Night Lectures and Saturday Night Viewings each week, there’s never a dull moment. Christopher Kersey, the manager and events coordinator at HRPO for 12 years now, sat down with DIG to give insight behind lectures, viewings, and special events that take place each month.

Every lecture at the observatory is free to the public with topics ranging from NASA history to black holes. Many people who speak during the Friday Night Lectures are either BRAS members or LSU professors, along with Christopher Kersey and a select few of his staff that lecture as well. It houses two telescopes that allow for the public to look at the different celestial objects that come into view. The observatory gives people of all ages a place to go to learn interesting things about the space around them.

“We want to keep people aware that, yes, we have video games, TV, radio, and Internet, but there’s also a ready made continuous schedule of things to look at in the sky that don’t require any equipment. Unlike some hobbies like skiing or tennis that require things to be purchased; sky gazing doesn’t require anything. It’s fun to see things that you would’ve missed otherwise,” said Kersey.

This month they will be doing many themed events for Halloween, which include the Spooky Spectrum. This is a family friendly event for parents who want an alternative to haunted houses or festivals while still being STEM oriented. Everyone is encouraged to dress up and enjoy the chemistry demos that focus on the different parts of the spectrum. Also, on October 13, there will be a solar viewing. This is an attempted viewing of the sun that happens one Saturday every month.

Apart from the monthly themed events, the observatory hosts viewings for all of the celestial objects that could be seen from the telescopes.

“The transit of Venus was really neat, we had about 800 people here and it was the only one in our lifetime we would see,” says Kersey when describing his favorite object he’s seen during his time at the observatory. The events and viewings at HRPO are more than just gatherings according to Kersey.

“They’re interesting markers in your life; some things happen every year and some things happen not as often like an eclipse of the moon or transits of Mercury. It’s interesting to ask yourself where you were or what you were doing the last time you saw something.”

Visit www.hrpo.lsu.edu to get information on weekly lectures, viewings, and special events happening for each month. You can also email observatory@brec.org with any questions you may have!

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