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Salina Astronomy Club turns eyes to the sky


Jeff Whithorn sets up one of many solar telescopes for the day. Whithorn serves as treasurer for the Salina Astronomy Club. (Photo by Ian Knight)

While most of the education going on at Symphony in the Flint Hills focused on grass and water, the people of the stargazing tent looked in the other direction. They aimed to educate people about the other half of the Flint Hills that makes it so glorious — the sky.

Jeff Whithorn and fellow members of the Salina Astronomy Club lugged tens of thousands of dollars worth of astronomical equipment to Rosalia Ranch, showing up hours before the first attendee walked through the gate to get it all set up. Sporting their teal green volunteer shirts and big smiles, the club was ready to help play their part in bringing awareness to the Flint Hills.

The Salina Astronomy Club has been at Symphony in the Flint Hills every year since being invited by David Clark, the former music director of Kansas Wesleyan University and a member of the Kansas City Symphony until 2007.

After the first year of Symphony in the Flint Hills, it was obvious that there was a need for more entertainment and education after the concert.

Paul Yeoman takes in views of the hills as wife Debbie looks on. The Kansas Astronomical Group based out of Salina brings a myriad of telescopes and binoculars for attendees to use throughout the day. (Photo by Ian Knight)

“A mass exodus of people leaving an event with nothing to do,” on roughly a three-mile dirt road, was not a good idea, Whithorn said.

The stargazing tent was bustling with activity most of the day.

“We started with one solar telescope; now we’ve got either eight or nine today,” Whithorn said.

There were even a couple of pairs of binoculars out for the viewing pleasure of the guests during the day — to get a closer view of the grasses, the outriders or even the concert.

As the symphony wound down and attendees made their way towards the shuttles, large crowds of people veered to the right side of the shuttle pick-up area to gather around the telescopes, waiting for their chance to view Jupiter and Venus. The clarity of the stars was uninterrupted by city lights or large billboards.

— by Ian Knight