Focusing on the night skies will be the star attraction this weekend at Lassen Volcanic National Park in California when the park's Dark Sky Festival is held.
During the festival, August 1-3, daytime activities will include safe sun viewing through special solar telescopes, scale solar system hikes, special junior ranger astronomy activities, workshops, demonstrations from astronomy educators, and a chance to learn about the exciting field of astrobiology from NASA scientists.
When the sun sets, visitors will discover that half the park is after dark. They will have the chance to learn about Lassen's role in protecting naturally dark skies as well as its role in the search for life on other planets. Northstate Public Radio host, David Schlom, together with astronomy educator, Dave Samuels, will deliver evening programs on the night sky at the Manzanita Lake Amphitheater. At the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, NASA scientists will present programs on the field of astrobiology featuring: Dave Blake, the principal investigator of the CheMin instrument onboard the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity), Dave Des Marais, the principal investigator of the NASA Astrobiology Institute Ames Research Center Team, Kirsten Fristad, NASA scientist, Niki Parenteau, NASA and SETI Institute scientist, and Sanjoy Som, NASA and Blue Marble Space Institute astrobiologist.
As night falls, Lassen will reveal magnificent star-filled skies, along with a chance to marvel at some of our neighboring planets, including Mars, Saturn, and if conditions are favorable, the dwarf planet of Pluto. Plenty of big telescopes will be available for the public to view the celestial wonders of Lassen's dark sky. Telescopes will be set up at Bumpass Hell parking area and in the Manzanita Lake area for public viewing each night of the festival. There will also be a special mobile observatory in use at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center.