There are few better places to stare into the dark starry skies than Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. OK, Natural Bridges National Monument on the eastern side of the state isn't too shabby for star-gazing, either. But it doesn't have an astronomy festival, and Bryce Canyon's 14th Annual Astronomy Festival arrives next week.
On hand for the festival will be the park's "Dark Rangers," as well as amateur astronomers from the Salt Lake Astronomical Society.
'With its renowned dark skies, astronomy has long been a significant part of Bryce Canyon's international appeal,' said Bryce Canyon Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh.
This year's festival will be held Wednesday, June 25, through Saturday, June 28, and features internationally known night sky photographer Alex Cherney. His keynote presentation ('Star Stories from Down Under') will begin at 9 p.m. June 27 at Ebenezer's Barn and Grill in Bryce Canyon City, adjacent to the park. Tickets are available at the door - $3 per person or $10 per family. Advance ticket sales are Monday ' Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Ebenezer's Barn & Grill desk located off Ruby's Best Western lobby.
Alex Cherney is a passionate astronomer and world-class night-sky photographer. Born in Ukraine, Alex now lives in Melbourne, Australia, where he photographs the wilds of Australia and New Zealand ' two of the few places on Earth with even darker night skies than Bryce Canyon. If you've ever dreamed of going on an Australian night-sky 'walk-about', here's your chance to follow in the footsteps of an expert. Listen to Alex tell 20,000-year-old sky stories and his own adventures in the Outback, beneath the backdrop of his stunning night sky videography set to moving music.
In addition to the keynote presentation on Friday, park rangers and guest speakers will conduct presentations on astronomy related subjects on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings. Planetarium educator Dr. Amy Sayle will dazzle us with 'Star Stories,' astronomer Dr. Anil Seth will enlighten the audience on 'Black Holes,' and educator Joel Allen will provide insight on 'The Lives of Stars.' Because of limited seating, FREE tickets are required for the Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday Evening Programs. Tickets must be obtained in person and are available at the park Visitor Center beginning at 10 p.m. the night before the program.
The park's visitor center will be open from 8 a.m. to midnight each day of the festival. Every night, following these presentations, free stargazing with telescopes will be provided courtesy of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society and Bryce Canyon's astronomy whizzes known as the 'Dark Rangers.'
Daytime activities will include a variety of fun and educational experiences for all ages, including: looking for sunspots with solar telescopes, exploring a 1:10 billion scale model of the solar system, and the longstanding family favorite ' model rocket building and launching workshops (kits range in price from $10 to $30 or bring your own). New this year, the park will offer afternoon star gazing in the park 'Star Lab' mobile planetarium with 20-minute programs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. every day in the Lodge Auditorium.
Outside of the festival, Bryce Canyon's interpretive rangers will offer more than 100 astronomy programs this year ' every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night, May through October. But the Astronomy Festival is the main event with telescope viewing Wednesday through Saturday.
For more information about obtaining program tickets, amateur astronomer participation, and directory of area accommodations, consult the Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival website or call 435-834-5322.