Throughout the centuries our civilization has been fascinated with the dark, from observing the Universe through telescopes, telling stories based on patterns in the night sky or building myths surrounding this last frontier. During the last weekend of July, the first ever Dark Sky Festival in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks will be celebrating the darkness that blankets its Giant Sequoia forest, high Sierra peaks, rivers, lakes and wildlife.
You too can join in the fun by attending some of the over 50 astronomy-themed events scheduled throughout the weekend. However, there are a few events that you don’t want to miss! Continue reading to get an insider’s peek at which events are really worth the trip to the National Parks this weekend. For specific times and dates for these free programs, check out the Sequoia Natural History Association website at www.sequoiahistory.org .
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL AT NIGHT
Have you ever seen the NASA website, National Geographic or Time Magazine’s Picture of the Year and seen a brilliant photograph of the night sky in one of America’s National Parks? That photograph may have been taken from award winning photographer Wally Pacholka. Specializing in the national parks of the West, one look at Pacholka’s work will leave you inspired to spend more time under the stars!
DESIGNING A LIFE FOR YOURSELF: ONE LITTLE STEP AT A TIME
From farm kid to airplane mechanic to pilot to trauma surgeon to rocket man to lead mechanic on the Hubble Telescope, Dr. Story Musgrave has an incredible story to tell. With 20 honorary degrees, 6 space flights and 30 years as a NASA astronaut, Dr. Musgrave will give you a glimpse into his life and will leave you feeling ready to pursue your dreams, one little step at a time.
SATURDAY NIGHT STAR PARTY with Kern County Astronomers
Join respected geologists and amateur astronomers from the Kern County Astronomical Society as they showcase the wonders of the night sky using powerful laser pointers and telescopes. View the rings of Saturn, galaxies millions of light years away or gaze into an ancient cluster of stars. With the help of these passionate star gazers, learn about backyard astronomy and get your Universe questions answered under the starry nights of Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park.
HITTING THE ROAD ON MARS
Since the beginning of time, people have been entranced by the night sky and by our nearest planetary neighbor-Mars. From the early missions to Viking, Pathfinder and the more recent missions- Mars has been (and is) a challenging destination. The Mars Exploration Rovers landed on Mars in January 2004 and have been successfully exploring ever since. Come hear the story of their legacy and our newest rover on Mars- the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover by esteemed NASA engineer and mission operations team member, Nagin Cox.
MEET NASA ASTRONAUTS
Have you ever wanted to hear what life is like in outer space? If you could ask just one question to a NASA astronaut, what would it be? This opportunity awaits you in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks during the Dark Sky Festival. Both selected as Mission Specialists by NASA in July 2000, both Colonel Robert L. Behnken and Megan McArthur will be speaking throughout the weekend.
BLAST OFF WITH TEAM S.P.E.W.
A perfect program for families with young engineers, learn how to build and launch your own water rocket by using a recycled carbonated beverage bottles. Watch them fly high into the air using only water and compressed air for fuel. Robert Leonard, a father and Den Leader for the Boy Scouts of America, will be the presenter. He has performed over 600 rocket launches in a single day and has launched simple rockets over 250 feet into the air!