Thacher Astronomer to Host Dark Skies Open House on September 15

During the day, Jon Swift teaches astronomy and mathematics at Thacher School in Ojai’s East End, where he has taken charge of a large state-of-the-art astronomical observatory, and oversees a hard-working group of students enthralled with the stars.
At night Swift and his collaborators look to the skies for illumination on a variety of astronomical subjects, he says, from “emerging galaxies” to “some of the most mysterious stars in the universe.”
Swift knows how important dark skies are, not just to astronomers, but to the natural environment and to our sense of wonder.
“One of the first things I did when I came to Thacher was to look at the characteristics of the site,” he said. “Before they built the site I wanted to know how bright the site was at night, and how much the stars twinkled, as well as the weather patterns. This is one of the things we’ve been monitoring with the Ojai Valley Green Coalition.”
Swift sees the night skies as a way to reach the community beyond Thacher, and potentially to unify it.
“I don’t really have a particular agenda,” he said. “I hope this event can bring people together regardless of political opinions, to explore the beauty of our environment, and to raise awareness of the consequences of light pollution. It’s my hope that as people become aware of our research observatory and have a bit of fun with it that they will become more aware and more interested.”
Swift has been working to preserve dark skies for many years, as an astronomer at CalTech, and as a collaborator with the Great Basin Observatory and National Park in Nevada. Being keenly aware of the light pollution issue, when he heard that time-lapse artists Gavin Hefferman and Harun Madmeninovik of the stunningly beautiful and powerful Sky Glow book and series were available, the best available argument for dark skies and against light pollution, he was eager to set a date to introduce them to Thacher and the broader public.
“Absolutely, this will be a sort of open house for us as well,” he said. “We want to host public events, and bring in other schools, and have people really look with their own eyes at what we are seeing.”
The public event, which is donation only, will be held in the Milligan Center for the Performing Arts. Parking available near the main entrance in the large lot. This will take place on Saturday September 15 at 7:00 p.m. Point person for questions: Katie O’Neill (
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