Evening Sky Tours illuminate Sedona’s night skies

Planet Jupiter was one of the features on our tour.

Sedona, Arizona is considered a “dark city”. It has laws against rows of street lights, lighted signs, and billboards. Those laws might make it a little tricky for getting around at night, but keeping the stars bright by keeping the lights low is one of the reasons Sedona is the perfect location to tour the celestial sky with Evening Sky Tours.

Our visit took place in October. We lucked out. The sky was perfect. Just a day before, there had been rain and the tour had to be cancelled. On the night we visited, however, the stars reached out from their dark canvas and beckoned.

We arrived early enough to get parked and situated. This gave our eyes time to get used to being in the dark. It is a bit eery to walk around a large, empty lot, not knowing what lies beyond the surrounding trees, but as our eyes adjusted, it was surprising how clearly we could see each other without the use of light, other than what sparkled down from the heavens.

The professional astronomers who greeted us were jovial and enthusiastic. The man who guided us the parking area was a personable, older gentleman with long white hair pulled back in a ponytail. As soon as we were out of our car, he took us for a pre-tour peek through a smaller telescope at the moon. I couldn’t remember having looked at the moon through a telescope before. It was an exercise I should do more often because it made the presence of our lunar companion, something I take for granted, more personal and important. In those few seconds of peering through that  long tube, I saw craters of the moon–our moon–and could almost feel the dust astronauts had left footprints in decades before. It set the stage for a tour that was sure to be out of this world.

David, our guide, led us to a row of chairs and offered blankets. He was quieter, shyer than the man who had shown us the moon, but his passion for astronomy quickly took the meekness out of him. As he showed us the large, portable telescope we would be using for our tour that night, his voice grew in strength and authority, bolstered by the kind of joy usually only found in children on the night before Christmas. He introduced us to the universe with fascinating stories about how they were discovered, what certain objects were made of, and how they behaved in space (did they orbit something? Or were they moving through space?). He highlighted his information with a lightsaber-like laser pointer that reached up and out to the celestial bodies we were going to view through the telescope.

Our tour was about three hours long. It started around 8 P.M., after everyone with a reservation had arrived, and lasted until 11 P.M. The length depends on the cooperation of the night sky, the enthusiasm of the participants, and the number of questions asked throughout. There were eight adults in our group, no children, although children six and up are welcome. Prices start at $35 for children 6-12 and go up to $60 per adult. There is a discount for parties of five or more and, if you’d like your own tour with up to 12 friends, the price is $450 for two hours.

We all took turns looking through the telescope at Jupiter, star clusters, nebula, and a galaxy that is close enough to be seen as a fuzzy streak with a bright point in the middle. As David set up the telescope for viewing each new wonder I kept my eyes as open as they could be to take in every visible element. I counted at least eight shooting stars and, even then, didn’t see them all because the woman next to me saw some that I didn’t.

This tour is truly unique. Each experience is different because each night sky is slightly different from the one before. It especially changes with the seasons, which is why I plan on taking a tour with Evening Sky Tours every time I visit Sedona.

Tours are available seven days a week and it is recommended you make your reservations early, before arriving to Sedona, since they do tend to book up quickly. Please be aware that cancellations can happen due to inclement weather. They will call you in advance to confirm and provide directions to the location.

For more information or to make a reservation, go to their website or give them a call at 928-853-9778.