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>> ZIP UP AND COME EXPLORE THE GREAT OUTDOORS UNDER THE THE NIGHT SKY
Hit the outdoors with Fredericksburg Parks and Rec this winter

 Park it right here at Motts Run Reservoir with two upcoming winter hikes: one for early birds, the other for night owls.
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Date published: 1/10/2013

BY COLLETTE CAPRARA

FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR

Though for many people the winter months signal a time for hibernating indoors, the folks at Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation invite families to Motts Run Reservoir to experience the season's unique natural treasures that lie in store for those who venture out.

STARRY, STARRY NIGHT

The Stargazing program offers a view of the celestial wonders above us as we scurry about our daily lives, while winter hikes take advantage of a unique time of year after trees release their leaves to reveal the homes and habitats of wildlife that are cloaked at other times of the year.

There could be no better guide to the majestic night sky than Myron Wasiuta, local optometrist and longtime astronomy buff, who generously shares a lifetime of knowledge and state-of-the-art viewing equipment--including his 14-inch Celestron telescope--with those inclined to learn.

Wasiuta, who was self-tutored in the science even in his elementary-school days, recalls the unforgettable sight of his first view of the rings of Saturn. He received his first telescope as a Christmas gift from his parents when he was 11.

"That's why I do these programs for families and children. I know how impressionable I was at that age. And I know how easy it is nowadays--with everything being computerized and with video games and television--for kids to overlook some of the most wonderful sights that are in the universe," he said. "And those are sights that are in the sky right in their backyard.

"All they need is a telescope. I hope to open the doors for them to explore the real world and the real universe. You can see the Orion Nebula or a quasar with your own eyes, and that is quite an adventure," he said.

Wasiuta's programs are offered at several times throughout the year and are typically theme-based.

For example, "The Life Cycle of a Star" provides a fascinating show-and-tell presentation of stars at different stages of their existence. Families will learn about their birth from a cloud of hydrogen gas and their time as a "healthy main-sequence star," glowing due to nuclear fusion, to their final stages as a planetary nebula or supernova explosion.


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STARGAZING IN THE PARK

Saturday Jan. 12, 8-9:30 p.m. Participants should dress warmly and may bring a lawn chair and blanket. Ages 8 and above. $4 per person.

WINTER NIGHT HIKE

Friday Jan. 18, 7-8:15 p.m. Dress warmly, wear shoes with good traction and bring a flashlight. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Ages 6 and above.

$5 per person.

GUIDED WINTER HIKE

Saturday, Jan. 26, 9:30-11 a.m. Ages 4 and above. $6 per person, $20 for a family of 5.

Where: Motts Run Nature Center/Reservoir, 6600 River Road, Fredericksburg.

Info: 540/372-1086, fredericksburgva.gov or stop by the Dorothy Hart Community Center, 408 Canal St., Fredericksburg. Pre-registration required for all activities.