• February 19, 2020

Marathon, the jewel of the night - Odessa American: Good News

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Marathon, the jewel of the night

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Posted: Saturday, February 15, 2020 3:00 am

MARATHON Marathon, a small town located at the junction of Highways 385 S and US 90 in Far West Texas, is quickly becoming a premier destination for serious and casual stargazers alike.

This easy going, quiet hamlet of about 500 residents possesses Class I dark skies, the darkest designation on the Bortle Scale, a chart that measures night sky brightness.

With easy access to Big Bend National Park 40 miles to the south, Marathon has long been a popular destination for travelers reveling in the great outdoors.

Now those adventures last long into the night, thanks to the growing popularity of a new attraction, the Marathon Sky Park, located at Marathon Motel and RV Park.

Motel owner Danny Self says, “We’ve got the wow factor going on. Many people have never even looked through a telescope. When they see Saturn through our scopes, they’re blown away. It makes their vacation.”

The Sky Park started as Self’s personal hobby of late night star gazing. It now boasts multiple observatory grade telescopes, including a 24-inch Dobsonian reflector, a 30-inch Newtonian, and a Cassegrain Equatorial Scope.

The telescopes are brought out for public viewing on most evenings, with the motel’s resident astrophotographer Bill Ramey, leading the party.

“I’m interested in capturing the imagination of children,” Ramey says.

He leads star parties free of charge for motel guests, and for a donation of $5 for anyone else.

The donations all benefit additions and upgrades to the Sky Park.

Most recently, Marathon Chamber of Commerce along with local businesses, chipped in $500 to help cover repairs to the mirror on one of the larger telescopes.

The stars over Marathon look different from what most urban dwellers are used to seeing. “It’s hard for people to spot the North Star out here, because the sky is saturated with so many more stars than people are used to seeing,” Ramey said.

Marathon’s unique location in a basin between massive mountain ranges, protects it from light pollution coming off of larger cities. Its nearest neighboring town is many miles away on the other side of the mountain pass. Its dry climate gives more opportunities for clear nights. And an even bigger plus is the town’s location off a major highway with numerous conveniences and amenities. There are restaurants, cafes, gas stations, a grocery store, and a growing number of lodging options all conveniently located in Marathon.

Besides sky parties, the Sky Park offers a state-of-the-art remotely operated astrophotography lab. The heavily shriveled equipment results in unparalleled glimpses into deep space. For photos, a webcam, and other info, visit marathonmotel.com.

For more information about the town of Marathon, visit marathontexas.com.

Odessa, TX

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