Great Basin National Park will help people look to the stars Sept. 5-7 during its Astronomy Festival. Astronomers from the Las Vegas and Salt Lake City Astronomical Societies, as well as Great Basin’s “Dark” Rangers will be on hand to provide entertainment and help attendees look through 20 telescopes.
Award-winning photographer Wally Pacholka will speak at 7 p.m. and a screening of the documentary The City Cark will be shown at 7 p.m. on Sept. 7. All events are free at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center.
“The night sky has always occupied a place of importance in human culture; it has inspired us throughout time, it is a place we go to ponder large questions,” Park Ranger Kelly Carroll said. “In the last 100 years, as we have lit our night with more and more light, we have divorced ourselves from the wonder of the night sky. The Great Basin Astronomy Festival is a time we can reintroduce and celebrate the night sky back to our lives.”
The festival will also feature numerous events for children, making the astronomy festival perfect for people of all ages to enjoy. Providing a chance for children to stargaze where light pollution is not a factor is extremely important going forward, Carroll said. Children can earn their Deep Sky Certificate, a Milky Way candy bar and glow in the dark bracelets as they look at stars and planets through the telescopes.
“In this country 80 percent of the youngest generation will never see the Milky Way because of light pollution,” Carroll said. “We think it’s extremely important to expose all ages to the wonders of the night sky, and we have designed our festival to include the interest of all members of the family – from the youngest to the oldest.”
This year, the 20 telescopes will be set up for star gazing at 8 p.m. each night. In the past astronomy shows, there were two or three set up, Carroll said. They will be set up to look at different objects and attendees can look at each one if they wish.
Pacholka, whose photos have been on the covers of several magazines and won NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day more than 20 times, can help inspire people and show them some amazing images just from looking out at a night sky.
“We are really excited to have Wally here for the festival.” Carroll said. “He readily agreed to be this year’s keynote speaker, and I think one of the things people will take away from Wally’s talk will be the excitement that can be found by simply exploring and enjoying being out at night. It’s a time we tend to always be inside, through Wally’s photographs it shows the beautiful things we find by being outside after the sun goes down.”
The astronomy festival may help people take a look up at the stars, but Great Basin National Park also features a lot of events for families, Carroll said.
“Astronomy has become a very important public program at the park, but the park has many more treasures to uncover,” Carroll said. “From a tour through Lehman Cave or a hike to the ancient bristlecone pine trees – there is something for all to enjoy at the park.”
As Great Basin National Park hosts the astronomy festival, they hope the festival can help get people of all ages to slow down and look up at the stars more often.
“We always encourage people to get outside after dark,” Carroll said. “Here in the park, we always say half the park is after dark.”