The Astronomers Inn is located at 1311 S. Astronomers Road, just outside of Benson off Interstate 10. Information: 520-586-7906 or www.astronomersinn.com.
© David H. Smith
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Catch the StarsMost people head to Malibu to catch a glimpse of the stars; however, your best bet is a B&B in Southern Arizona.
By Lauren Proper
Isolated from major cities and bright lights, the Astronomers Inn, a unique B&B in Benson, houses the one-of-a-kind Vega-Bray Observatory. The inn's location makes it possible because the jet streams over Southern Arizona provide ideal conditions for stargazing, allowing visitors some of the most beautiful views in the world. Anytime is a good time to visit, but according to Christina Pease and Dean Salman, who lead some of the private stargazing lessons, October is best because of the cooler weather and clearer skies.
Guests can hire Pease and Salman, as well as other guides, for a four-hour lesson, which can be geared to any level of interest. In addition, a new session teaches guests how to take photographs using telescopes.
Although an evening spent under a blanket of stars in a mysterious pitch-black sky sounds like something out of a Robert Frost poem, Patricia Vega's first night at the Astronomers Inn was much different than what guests experience today.
Back then, it wasn't the Astronomers Inn, or even the Sky Watcher's Inn, its original name; it was a 57-acre plot of land that Patricia had saved for and purchased on her own.
On New Year's Eve 1987, at exactly midnight, she took possession of the property and started walking the perimeter. Along the banks of the San Pedro River, the ground gave way and she fell into the freezing water. After struggling for nearly an hour, she finally made it out of the river and found herself chest-deep in quicksand. She managed to escape, but her shoes and pants did not. She tied her shirt around her waist and trudged back to her car, caked with mud and leaves.
She was driving back to Tucson to see her husband, astronomy enthusiast Eduardo Vega, when a police officer on DUI patrol pulled her over.
"Please step out of the car." It wasn't a question.
Patricia explained to the man why she couldn't get out of her car, recounting her incredible evening. He was reluctant to believe her story, but followed her all the way back to her house to make sure she arrived safely.
From that night on, until recently, Patricia ran the Sky Watcher's Inn. However, in 2006, she sold the property to the current owners, who renamed it. Fortunately for astronomy lovers, not much has changed.
The inn still has three themed rooms and a studio, including the Garden Room, the Egyptian Room and the Galaxy Room, which is decorated in a Star Wars theme and has a 10-foot dome. Breakfast is served in the solarium, overlooking the lake and surrounding property. Outside its large picture windows, lavishly colored birds hover nearby and squirrels seek shelter under the patio.
It seems peaceful, and it is. Despite the occasional rattlesnake or Gila monster, visitors to the Astronomers Inn don't have much more to worry about — other than a cloudy evening.