A summer evening spent gazing at the night sky with the naked eye and with powerful telescopes. Astronomy interspersed with poetry, marshmallows roasted over a fire pit, a sip of wine and hot cocoa. This and more await soon-to-be star guides on Tony Berendsen’s Star Tours.
Walk among the wonders of the night sky with Berendsen, a star guide and poet, who wants to share his passion for the stars with everyone. Glimpse at the planets just beyond the reach of Mount Pluto, gaze at the twinkling red and yellow lights of Alpha Centauri, follow Arcturus as it rises, look upon star clusters and planets that seem so close you can almost reach out and touch them, and take a tour of the ancient world as you learn about the constellations. All of this and some time travel await those that take part in one of the Tahoe Star Tours.
I recently joined Berendsen’s star tour at Northstar. After meeting at the Residence Club at the Ritz-Carlton, the group walked by the light of flashlights and headlamps over to Mid-Mountain and took seats around the fire pit to keep warm while Berendsen began the tour. Absent from manmade lights, the wonders of the night sky began to open up as your eyes adjust to the darkness. First, the bright light from planets and some of the stars are easily visible. Within minutes, more stars become evident until the sky is littered with thousands of tiny twinkling lights. As the clouds dispersed, we could start to make out the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Ryan Berendsen | Tahoe Star Tours
Berendsen begins with some basic information on the universe with the help of a large, flat screen TV that was set up next to the fire for a video show of the stars, planets and night wonders.
Berendsen talks about the size of the universe, planets and starts, putting them into perspective using toys as props. He talks about a light year, which measures distance based on the distance at which light can travel in one year, and how gas and dust is the basis of all life in the universe. He also talks about the stars seen in the night sky and the one that we see every day that is crucial to life on Earth – the Sun.
“When you get up every morning, you see a star coming up over the horizon,” Berendsen says. “The stars are responsible for everything that we’re made up of.”
Ryan Berendsen | Tahoe Star Tours
While Berendsen is talking about the stars, his assistant Ryan has the Celestron telescopes – that use GPS coordinates to locate stars, planets and other objects – trained on various objects. We were able to see the rings of Saturn, we viewed the star Vega, the Hercules Cluster in deep space far beyond the Milky Way and more.
Berendsen gives guests a detailed tour of the constellations and stars and planets visible to the naked eye. His talks are informative and geared to the layman, and are filled with astronomy, mythology and natural history.
Berendsen will be offering tours at Northstar most weekends through Sept. 14 with the next tours on July 19, 20 and 26 on Leo Stalks the Sun. Select tours also feature a performance of the string quartet Accent with the next concert star tour on July 27.
Northstar’s tours are from 8:15 to 10:45 p.m. and tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children 12 and younger. The tours with Accent Nevada are $75 for adults and $50 for 18 and younger. To make a reservation for a tour at Northstar, call (877) 935-0350 or visit www.northstarcalifornia.com.
Kayak Star Tours also are offered with Tahoe Adventure Company, with kayak tours offered on Aug. 12 and Sept. 17 in Tahoe Vista. The cost is $75 per person and includes equipment, hot drinks and snacks. To make a reservation for this tour, call (530) 913-9212 or visit tahoeadventurecompany.com.
Berendsen also offers private tours. For more information, call (775) 232-0844 or visit www.tahoestartours.com.
Top photograph: Erik Shellman | Tahoe Star Tours
“I have from time to time
Walked amongst the pine
Not by warmth of Sol
But lights of old
Those twinkling points up there
I see them every year
Like Elders overlooking
And, yes, I know how we are
To put in groups
Lay boundaries as to say
They may wander, ever stray
But a hundred of our lives
Will barely catch a million miles
So I let them out of bounds
While I walk amongst the pine
I call them by their single names
Sometimes I play an Elder’s game
I’ll block their sight with a single limb
And, let them see when I move again.
Imagine that you can block the light of a star with a single limb …”