Astronomy night at The Peak

COOLIDGE, Ariz. – Astronomy Night at the Peak returns to Central Arizona College April 4 when Wayne Pryor presents Saturn and its Moons and Katy Wilkins inflates STARLAB for an inside look of the Arizona nighttime sky.

The family event will run from 6:30-9 p.m. on Central’s Signal Peak Campus and is for children and adults of all ages. Moms and dads can bring the entire family but leave their wallets at home since the community event is free, courtesy of Central Arizona College.

“The presentation is ideal for children and adults,” Pryor, Central’s professor of astronomy and geology, said in describing the diverse audience. “It is a real family event that we offer to the community for free. I try to keep the talk down to 20-30 minutes, which seems about the right amount of time for children. The kids seem to truly enjoy it.”

From 6:30-8 p.m., guests also will have an opportunity to experience STARLAB, a portable planetarium that allows year-round viewing of constellations.
Wilkins, the current dean of students at Toltec Middle School, will set up STARLAB and offer a presentation inside M101 of the Student Services Center, the large building with the clock tower located on the Signal Peak Campus.

“My public presentations usually consist of some short stories and how to locate constellations and some other interesting facts,” she said, understating her ability to help visitors easily transfer the images inside STARLAB to the real nighttime sky.

STARLAB was purchased when Central Arizona College’s SEMAA (Science Engineering Mathematics Aerospace Academy) program was being offered on campus.

“The lab has been in use since 2002 and has visited schools throughout Pinal County,” Wilkins said. “Each year I present to at least 300 plus students and parents, as well as at other public events.”

Guests will then leave the STARLAB and head toward the Central Arizona College observatory to view Saturn and its moons through the institution’s two large telescopes.

“Our telescopes include large reflectors with 24-inch and 14-inch diameter mirrors,” Pryor explained. “We actually observed a Pluto occultation event last spring with the 24-inch.”

The presentation on Saturn will take place at Central’s observatory located behind the C. Leroy Hoyt Hall Science/Engineering Building (S) just a short walk up the hill from the Student Services Center. The observatory also is accessible to wheelchairs from the north end of the building.

Visitors are asked to bring a jacket and dress appropriately for outdoor weather typical of early April in Pinal County.
For more information on the event, please contact Wayne Pryor by phone at 520-494-5351, or by email at

Directions to Central’s Signal Peak Campus

Signal Peak Campus is located at 8470 North Overfield Road, Coolidge, AZ 85228. The campus is located at the base of Signal Peak Mountain between the towns of Coolidge and Casa Grande, just east of Interstate 10.

Driving north from Tucson on I-10, take exit 190 (McCartney Road) and turn right at the top of the exit ramp to head east. Follow McCartney Road east to North Overfield Road, turn left at the stop sign to head north into the Central Arizona College Signal Peak Campus.

Driving south from Phoenix on I-10, take exit 190 (McCartney Road) and turn left at the top of the exit ramp to head east. Follow McCartney Road east to North Overfield Road, turn left at the stop sign to head north into the Central Arizona College Signal Peak Campus.

From Coolidge take Martin Road west around the S-turn back on to Woodruff Road. The large dairy will be on your left. Follow Woodruff Road east to the flashing traffic light, making a right turn into the campus.


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Central Arizona College - District Office 8470 N. Overfield Road, Coolidge, AZ 85128 Phone: 800-237-9814