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See Orion Nebula, where stars are born, at free stargazing event near Joshua Tree

See Orion Nebula, where stars are born, at free stargazing event near Joshua Tree
Sky’s the Limit Observatory and Nature Center in Twentynine Palms will host an evening devoted to helping you find constellations in the sky. (F. Brian Ginn)

The Orion Nebula is a place where stars are born, not Hollywood types but celestial ones. In January, it’s high in the night sky and easy to see. If you need a guide to point the way, volunteers will be on hand with telescopes and binoculars in a clear-sky area in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

The Sky’s the Limit Observatory and Nature Center outside the north entrance to Joshua Tree National Park invites all to attend a free stargazing event starting at 6 p.m. Saturday. You’ll be able to view the night sky through various sizes of telescopes set up along the sidewalks outside the observatory.

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Visitors are welcome to come at any time during the two-hour event.

To the naked eye, the nebula appears as a fuzzy patch of light dangling from the three stars in Orion’s belt. Telescopes should provide a clearer view. You’ll also be able to identify Orion (the Hunter), Taurus (the Bull) and other constellations.

EarthSky’s website says: “According to modern astronomers, the Orion Nebula is an enormous cloud of gas and dust, one of many in our Milky Way galaxy. It lies roughly 1,300 light-years from Earth.”

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you go:

— A low of 36 degrees is forecast Saturday evening for the area. Dress warmly and in layers for temperatures that could drop quickly.

— Bring a red-light flashlight to preserve people’s night vision.

— Pack snacks, water bottles and chairs for your stargazing outing.

— Children younger than 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

— There’s no camping or places to stay overnight at the observatory. Visitors must pack out all their own trash.

— For visitors who may want to spend the night in the area, campgrounds for overnight stays are closed at Joshua Tree National Park because of the partial government shutdown.

The event will be held at the observatory at 9697 Utah Trail in Twentynine Palms. Cloudy skies could affect stargazing; get updates on Twitter at @STL29Palms.

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