Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011
Almost a thousand visitors celebrated some of the darkest skies in the country by attending Great Basin National Park’s second annual astronomy festival from July 28th to July 30th.
Visitors participated in daytime and nighttime events that covered the many different topics of astronomy and night sky protection. These events included telescope viewing, astronomy presentations, solar viewing, kids programs, music, art, literature, and a night-sky themed ranger talent show.
The park enlisted the help of regional astronomy groups, the Las Vegas Astronomical Society and the Salt Lake Astronomical Society, as well as astronomers from local and faraway communities to provide many different telescopes for park visitors to gaze at planets, stars, nebulas, galaxies, and other amazing deep sky objects. Over 25 volunteers provided interpretation, education, and entertainment to all who looked through the telescopes.
Dr. Tyler Nordgren, author of Stars Above, Earth Below: A Guide to Astronomy in the National Parks and this year’s festival keynote speaker, talked about the importance of preserving the night skies within America’s national parks. Nordgren’s lecture highlighted the fact that national parks are some of the last true dark sky sanctuaries in our country and how light pollution is a solvable national issue.
Paul Bogard, author and editor of Let There Be Night: Testimonies on Behalf of the Dark, also contributed to the weekend’s program with a talk and workshop. Bogard spoke of the importance of night sky protection and how advocacy and testament works to further education of the importance of the night sky to people’s spiritual and physical needs.
Great Basin National Park has placed a new emphasis on expanding its night sky viewing and night sky protection programs. The Great Basin National Park Foundation has donated three new 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain to the park. Since Memorial Day weekend, they have given over 3500 park visitors their first look of the incredible sights in the night sky while learning the importance of preserving an important park resource.
Great Basin National Park has scheduled their third astronomy festival for next June. The festival was co-sponsored by the National Parks and Conservation Association.