What value can be found in a truly dark, star-speckled sky? Simply put, there is no universal answer.
Artists attempt to capture the night’s wild beauty in paintings and photographs. Writers strive to articulate our indescribable kinship with the stars through poems and novels. Scientists work to untangle the surprising ties between darkness and healthy communities - both human and natural. And every summer, rangers and astronomers share the heritage embedded in our night sky with visitors of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
From June 21st through the 24th, the 8th Annual Black Canyon Astronomy Festival will allow visitors to find their own value in our starlit skies. Solar viewing will offer day-time visitors a safe examination of our closest star. Evening programs by guest speakers will cover a variety of topics: Chap Percival will discuss the solar eclipse, the astronomical highlight of the coming summer; Bettymaya Foott of the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative will illuminate our need for darkness and how to protect it; and Tom Haraden will expose the true character and importance of bats, or as he calls them, “Masters of the Night.” There will also be a ranger-led talk at the Gunnison Valley Observatory, in which Gunnison attendees will have a unique opportunity to explore our interstellar backyard using a powerful telescope. No need to worry if a trip to the observatory will not fit in your schedule! The Black Canyon Astronomical Society has you covered - they will lend their time, telescopes, and expertise to South Rim visitors throughout the festival.
When the discovery-packed festival finally draws to a close, visitors can join rangers and astronomers to continue exploring the stars every Wednesday and Friday night throughout the summer. And as always, any evening in the park will provide an opportunity to find mystery, beauty, and inexhaustible wonder in the night sky.
For more information on the astronomy festival and other Black Canyon ranger-led programs, visit: https://www.nps.gov/blca/planyourvisit/calendar.htm
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 Molly Pittman of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.