Mark Your Calendars: Bryce Canyon National Park's Astronomy Festival is July 7-10

Bryce Canyon National Park rangers will be celebrating the park's star-filled night skies during the 10th Annual Bryce Canyon National Park Astronomy Festival next month. NPS graphic.

Bryce Canyon National Park will celebrate its dark night skies in July during its 10th Annual Astronomy Festival. And there are two bonuses to this event: One is free entrance to the park for the festival for Utah residents, the other is the keynote speaker is the author of Stars Above, Earth Below, A Guide to Astronomy in the National Parks.

This year’s festival will be held Wednesday, July 7 through Saturday, July 10. Dr. Tyler Nordgren, 2010 keynote speaker, kicks-off the event with a talk about his book. That talk will be July 7 from 8:30 p.m.-9:45 p.m. in Ebenezer’s Barn and Grill in Bryce Canyon City adjacent to the park. Tickets are $2 per person, or $5 per family, and will be sold at the door. Following the indoor presentation, free stargazing with telescopes will be provided back in the park, courtesy of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society and the “Dark Rangers” of Bryce Canyon.

“Astronomy is fast becoming a big part of Bryce Canyon’s international appeal,” says acting Superintendent Kathleen Gonder. “People come from all over the world to see our stars and yet many Utahns have yet to experience the beauty of our night sky. So, that’s why I’m extending an invitation to all of my fellow Utahns. For the duration of our Astronomy Festival, I’ve authorized that Bryce Canyon’s $25 entrance fee will be waived for all non-commercial vehicles operated by a driver with a valid Utah Driver’s license.”

According to a park release, the 2010 Astronomy Festival will also feature model rocket building and launching workshops led daily by veteran rocketeer, Fred Olsen, of Alpine, Utah. Other afternoon workshops cover such topics as learning the night sky using planispheres, learning about the Sun and safely viewing it with solar telescopes, and guided walks along a scale model of our solar system.

In the evenings, join the “Dark Rangers” -- park rangers who specialize in interpreting the celestial aspects of the park -- and other guest speakers for presentations on topics related to astronomy and nocturnal animals, before venturing out into the night to stargaze under Bryce Canyon's famous dark skies. Thanks to the Salt Lake Astronomical Society, over 50 telescopes, most of them huge, will be available for public viewing of the universe after the presentations.

“We’ll be doing over 100 astronomy programs this year at Bryce Canyon -- every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night, May through October," said Kevin Poe, one of Bryce Canyon's "Dark Rangers. "But, the Astronomy Festival is the main event. We hope to see you there! For more information consult the Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival Website: http://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/astrofest.htm