Tahoe Star Tours teach guests about the universe using high-powered Celestron telescopes | SierraSun.com

Tahoe Star Tours teach guests about the universe using high-powered Celestron telescopes

Star guide and poet Tony Berendsen runs Tahoe Star Tours, bringing locals and visitors to North Lake Tahoe the opportunity to appreciate the gorgeous night sky in a much more intimate way.

"I have nothing against the constellations, but why stop there? There's a whole cosmos out there," Berendsen said.

His passion for the way the universe works is apparent throughout the evening's schedule.

As guests make their way to Café Blue in The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe for a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate, Berendsen's son Ryan sets up the Celestron telescopes, which is no small task.

To transform the backyard of The Ritz-Carlton for optimum stargazing potential, the Berendsens load up 8-inch and 11-inch telescopes weighing up to 150 pounds each and transport them to the grassy viewing area beside the Manzanita Terrace.

The telescopes are aligned, pinpointing that particular evening at jupiter, saturn and the moon through mechanical configurations that take into account the earth's rotation.

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Back in the hotel, Berendsen welcomes the crowd with an introduction and invites adults in particular to "dust off your imagination" for the evening ahead.

Berendsen shared astronomical poetry with the group including selections written by elementary school students in the region competing in an astro-poetry contest for the grand prize of their very own telescope.

"I think I can really connect with people through poetry," Berendsen said. "It's a way of connecting science and art."

As soon as the sun goes down it's time to walk out to the viewing area, equipped with a flashlight, some solar viewing lenses (a gift to get a glimpse at the sun during the daytime), and a wealth of knowledge on the wondrous planetary show you're about to see.

The crowd meanders through the grass, lining up behind telescopes to see different pinpoints in the sky, letting out "oohs" and "aahs" with each new viewpoint of another mysterious piece of space.

"I'm a community person and I've always cared," Berendsen said.

"I just want to be with a group that I can empower with knowledge and give people an understanding of what it is out there."

He added that North Lake Tahoe is one of the best places you could stargaze, saying guests of his from Chicago are blown away.

Tahoe Star Tours encourages guests to think about what lies beyond the things we see with the naked eye, pondering extraterrestrial life and simple logistics of just how far away planets and star clusters are — talk about a fun and educational experience.

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at cwalker@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.

Learn More

Tahoe Star Tours are held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings through Sept. 2 from 8:15 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Tours are hosted at the Dark Skies Cosmoarium at Northstar on Thursdays and Saturdays, and at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, on Fridays.

Tickets for adults are $40 while tickets for kids age 12 and under are $20.

Visit http://www.tahoestartours.com for more.