Nighttime on the beach at Eden is about as good as it gets.
On a clear night, the east to west panoramic screen of the sky shows the dazzle of heavenly bodies like the moon, the stars and even more.
Thanks to the excellent viewing opportunity provided by the relative seclusion of the Perdido Key area, as well as the efforts of a local amateur astronomy group, visitors to Eden can learn a new appreciation of the star shine at the beach.
The Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association hosts regular stargazing events at Big Lagoon State Park, just seven miles from Eden. Free public stargazing events are scheduled for Big Lagoon on Aug. 28 and Sept. 25, with more to be scheduled in the near future.
“Big Lagoon gets us away from more light-polluted areas,” said Dewey J. Barker, stargazing coordinator for the club. “The advantage is that fainter objects like star clusters, nebulae and galaxies are easier to see in areas with darker skies. The Milky Way is also easier to see here when compared to most residential areas.”
Tourists are always welcome at the stargazing events.
“We have had families adjust their vacation plans to come to one of our events,” Barker said.
The evenings at Big Lagoon usually start with group leaders highlighting any planets that are visible and, as the night gets darker, the fainter objects. They also discuss the names and histories of visible constellations. Members of the group who are astrophotographers will go over photography procedures and processing techniques. Group members are also willing to help folks who bring their telescopes.
“Jupiter and Saturn will be the main planets visible for the next several months,” Barker explained. “The fall/winter constellations are on the rise. Some of the main ones will be Virgo, Scorpius and Sagittarius. Looking towards Virgo will provide views of galaxies while Scorpius and Sagittarius will give us views of star clusters and nebulae.”
For folks who aren’t going to be in town when the club is hosting an event, there is still potential for star time while you’re here. If you want to try some solo stargazing, Barker suggested trying to find a spot away from light, but even your condo balcony could work.
“Binoculars would likely be the best option as they are easier to pack and travel by air,” Barker suggested. “Observing from a chair or propping your arms on the balcony rail would help stabilize the view. Most people tend to get the shakes after a bit.”
But if someone wants special help to appreciate the night sky, even on an evening when the club doesn’t have anything scheduled, it may be something that can be arranged.
“Visitors don't necessarily need to wait for one of our gazes as we can come out to Eden,” Barker said. “We have gone out and held gazes at other condos in their courtyard areas. Granted, it would be better to do this when the moon is visible. These types of gazes are free of charge and are part of our public education and outreach programs.”
For more information about stargazing opportunities on your visit to Eden, check out the Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association’s website or email Barker at [email protected]. If you email him, be sure to put “Stargazing” in the subject line.
There's so much to do on and around our 16-miles-long island paradise, there's no way you can experience it all in just one stay. To help you make the most of your Eden vacation, we've picked a few of our favorite experiences that we hope will become precious memories for you too. If you have a question, or don't see what you're looking for, please let us know. We want to make sure that each memory of your Eden vacation is truly magical.