The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “festival” as “a special time or event when people gather to celebrate something.” In Colorado we love our festivals. Here, you can celebrate wildflowers, hot air balloons, rodeos, sweet corn, your favorite beverage, and bluegrass. On the Western Slope, there is another type of festival, and it’s coming up very soon. The 7th Annual Astronomy Festival will be held at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park from June 1st through the 4th.
When it comes to dark skies, what do we have to celebrate? Darkness - some of the darkest skies left in the country. Because of these exceptionally dark skies, Black Canyon and several other national park sites have been designated as International Dark Sky Parks
– recognizing the exceptional quality and clarity of the skies here. Our dark skies bring us a connection to the past and a link to the future. These are certainly good reasons to have a festival. Astronomers and Sky Rangers from around the region will be on hand each day and night with telescopes and expertise to show visitors these wondrous skies. Solar viewing, evening ranger-led programs and nightscape photographer workshops are just some of the scheduled events. The pinnacle of the festival will be the presentation on Friday, June 3rd, by astronomer Dr. Tyler Nordgren. Dr. Nordgren will the wow the crowd with a program on astronomy in national parks. All of the programs will be held at the South Rim of the Black Canyon. The 2016 Astronomy Festival promises to be an amazing celebration of night skies in Colorado, but it’s just the beginning. Throughout the summer, astronomy programs are held at the South Rim of the canyon every Wednesday and Friday. Full moon hikes will also be conducted along park trails. Astronomy in the park is truly a year-round celebration.
You’ve been listening to Western Slope Skies, produced by members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society
. This episode was written and recorded by Park Ranger Nick Myers of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
. For more information on the astronomy festival and other Black Canyon ranger-led programs, visit www.nps.gov/blca/planyourvisit/calendar.htm