Celebrating winter solstice in Chaco and Aztec national parks

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Aztec Ruins National Monument and Chaco Culture National Historical Park are hosting programs in honor of the winter solstice Dec. 20-21. Visitors will be treated to sunrise and sunset alignments at Ancestral Puebloan Great Houses during the special events, according to a press release from the National Park Service.

Aztec's events will take place on Dec. 20 and 21. To view this sunset event, visitors must arrive at the visitor center by 4:30 p.m. to join the rangers and volunteers who will be escorting visitors to the Aztec West great house alignment location. Assuming that the western skies are clear, visitors will be able to observe the alignment of the north wall of Aztec West with the sunset position on the western horizon. During the winter solstice, the sunset location appears to "stand still" in its southernmost point on the horizon for multiple days. Please wear sturdy walking shoes, and dress for the weather.

For those wanting some insight into this solar event, Aztec Ruins will offer two ranger programs in the visitor center: one program starting before the solar observation at 3:45 pm and the other starting just after sunset around 5:00 p.m. After the sunset observation, visitors can enjoy cookies and hot cocoa provided by the Friends of Aztec Ruins while learning about Pueblo winter traditions, other solar alignments, and the astronomy of the December sky. For more information about the solstice events at Aztec Ruins call (505) 334-6174.

Chaco's event will take place on December 21. Join Park Astronomers for the Winter Solstice sunrise alignment at Kin Kletso. The first 100 visitors who arrive will be allowed past the gate to witness this event. Gates will open at 6:00am. Gallo Campground reservations are recommended and can be made at recreation.gov. Cookies and coffee provided by the Friends of Chaco will be available at the visitor center after the sunrise program.

Following the sunrise program there will be a ranger guided tour of Pueblo Bonito at 10 a.m. At 2 p.m. visitors can awaken to the six directions as you experience Dr. Cherilynn Morrow's "Connect to Chaco's Center Place" program. Dr. Cherilynn Morrow earned her doctorate in astrophysical, planetary, and atmospheric Sciences from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1988. She conducted graduate research in solar physics at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and post-doctoral research at Cambridge University.

Both of these programs will meet at the Pueblo Bonito Parking lot. For more questions about Chaco's solstice program call (505) 786-7014.

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