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Time travel with Tahoe Star Tours

An evening under the Sierra night sky with Tahoe Star Tours
Nicole Cheslock

I find a good made up word irresistible and instantly warm up to Tony Berendsen when he introduces one of his, “Cosmoarium.” It’s obvious from the beginning of the Tahoe Star Tour evening that Berendsen's love for stargazing and celestial poetry will be contagious. Just as you'd guess, the Cosmoarium is place to look at and learn about the universe. And, Tahoe Star Tours is an opportunity to be immersed in the Sierra sky and beyond.

We walk down a paved road to the comfy Adirondack style chairs (and hot beverages) located just a hundred feet or so from three telescopes already pointed at the night sky. This is the Cosmoarium, a spacious area set up for the evening in a lower parking area not far from the Northstar California Village where Berendsen, an avid amateur astronomer offers visually rich stars tours. He has shared a night amongst the stars with more than 10,000 people over the last twelve years. With nearly five dozen star tours scheduled this summer and hopes for a permanent structure, he isn’t slowing down.

“I have nothing against constellations but it's about other galaxies,” he shares before reciting Elders, a poem he wrote after an inspiring evening in the great outdoors. “…Those twinkling points up there, I see them every year, Like elders overlooking…”.

From a kindergarten student who entered Berendsen’s annual Astropoetry contest (before there was even a category for her age group) to Galileo to the evening’s featured speaker, Tony shares his heroes with the audience while showing pictures of space in a visually rich presentation set outdoors. It doesn't make you feel small, and I write this at just 5’ 2”, but rather part of something bigger and grander.

He later references an article from Scientific American about finding the sun's lost siblings and tells us, an audience of about thirty people, that six to 700 light years away there is a star that might be sun’s sibling.

“You learn to cherish life as an astronomer,” shares astrophotograher Tony Hallas, the evening’s guest speaker.

In addition to seeing the rings around Saturn through one of the high powered telescopes and just looking up at the clear night sky, a wonderful part of the evening includes sitting by the blazing fire pits, roasting marshmallows to sandwich between Nature Valley dark chocolate covered granola thins for an unbelievably delicious s’more.

Our evening wraps up with Berendsen’s recital of “Choose something like a star” by Robert Frost after we board the bus for the less than five minute ride back to the Village.
“One day everyone will walk out under a starry sky they understand,” dreams Tony while taking us on a visual as well as poetic journey. Like every star, every Tahoe Star Tour is unique. Children are welcome and teens encouraged.

IF YOU GO

  • Reserve a date for the 8:15 to 10:30 p.m. program through Tahoe Star Tours
  • $30 / Adult and $15 / Children (5 to 12)
  • Concert Star Tour at the Ritz Carlton, Lake Tahoe: $75/ Adult and $50/ Children (18 and under)

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