• Bryce Canyon Amphitheater

    Bryce Canyon

    National Park Utah

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International Year of Astronomy

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Date: May 18, 2009
Contact: Kevin Poe, 435.834.4412

collage of images for the 2009 astronomy festival

Celebrate the International Year of Astronomy at the 9th Annual Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival June 17-20, 2009

Bryce Canyon National Park Superintendent, Eddie Lopez, invites you to join Bryce Canyon's "Dark Rangers" and amateur astronomers from the Salt Lake Astronomical Society for the Ninth Annual Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival.

"Astronomy is fast becoming a big part of Bryce Canyon’s international appeal," says Superintendent Lopez, "People come from all over the world to see our stars and yet many Utahans have yet to experience the beauty of our night sky. So, that’s why I'm extending an invitation to all of my fellow Utahans. For the duration of our Astronomy Festival, I've authorized that Bryce Canyon’s $25 entrance fee will be waived for all non-commercial vehicles operated by a driver with a valid Utah Driver’s license."

This year’s festival will be held Wednesday, June 17 through Saturday, June 20. John Stoke, 2009 keynote speaker, kicks-off the event with his presentation, "Hubble and Beyond, Far Beyond".

Four hundred years ago, Galileo's telescope revealed the nature of the heavens for the first time. For the last two decades, photography from the Hubble Space Telescope has continued the revolution, showing us a universe far richer and stranger than we'd imagined. Join John Stoke, former member of NASA's Hubble mission, for the very best of Hubble and a peek into the next generation of telescopes. Stoke's new assignment is with the National Science Foundation's National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a partner in the development of ALMA, an international telescope project that will reveal intimate secrets of the universe invisible to Hubble, with a sharpness ten times higher.

At first I wasn't sure that we'd be able to top last year's astronomy festival," begins Head Dark Ranger Kevin Poe – "Dark Ranger" being the unofficial title that all Bryce Canyon’s astronomy rangers share. "Astronaut Story Musgrave captivated our 2008 audience with his story about how he, a mere farm boy, became a famous astronaut and how it was his farm boy know-how that fixed the Hubble Space Telescope when nobody else could. And yet with this year being the International Year of Astronomy – the 400th anniversary celebration of the telescope, I can't imagine a more prestigious guest then Mr. Stoke. John has always been on the forefront of astronomy, first with Hubble, and now ALMA. Once again John will be ushering in a next era of astronomy." Adds Poe, "I'm certain that old Galileo would be proud, if not a little envious."

Stoke's program will be held Wednesday, June 17, from 8:30pm-9:45pm in the Triple-C Arena, at 50 East 900 North in Panguitch, Utah. Tickets are $2 per person, or $5 per family, and will be sold at the door. Following the indoor presentation, free stargazing with telescopes will be provided outside the arena, courtesy of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society and the "Dark Rangers" of Bryce Canyon.

The 2009 Astronomy Festival will also feature model rocket building and launching workshops led daily by veteran rocketeer, Fred Olsen, of Alpine Utah. Other afternoon workshops cover such topics as learning the night sky using planispheres, learning about our sun and safely viewing it with solar telescopes, and guided walks along a scale model of our solar system. In the evenings, join the "Dark Rangers" and other guest speakers for presentations on topics related to astronomy and nocturnal animals, before venturing out into the night to stargaze under Bryce Canyon's famous dark skies. Thanks to the Salt Lake Astronomical Society, over 50 telescopes, most of them huge, will be available for public viewing of the universe after the nightly presentations.

Throughout the festival, the Bryce Canyon Shuttle will provide free transportation to and from program venues within the park. Additionally, free shuttles will travel between Bryce Canyon City and the Triple-C Arena in Panguitch for those attending John Stoke's program on opening night. Reservations are required for these special Panguitch shuttles. Contact the Shuttle Boarding Area at Ruby's Inn for reservations and information (435-834-5290).

NASA's Solar System Ambassador, and arguably Utah’s most famous sky watcher, Patrick Wiggins, proclaims, "I've been to zillions of these star parties, all around the world, and nobody does it like Bryce Canyon! Not only is it one of the darkest places left on the planet, they make it fun for all ages. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or an astronomy geek to have a blast!"

"And the best part," adds Larry Thrower, Bryce Canyon Fee Collection Supervisor, "is that if you’re a Utahan, all you have do is show your driver's license and tell my staff, 'We’ve come to see the stars!' and we'll let you in for free, for all four days and nights!"

Non-Utah residents must pay the park entrance fee, $25 per car, good for 7 days, or purchase an $80 America the Beautiful Interagency Annual Pass which for 12-months from the time of purchase, waives entrance fees to all 391 National Park Service areas; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Forest Service lands. Lifetime passes for seniors and persons with disabilities are also available and offer the same privilege.

Concludes "Dark Ranger" Poe, "We’ll be doing over 100 astronomy programs this year at Bryce Canyon -- every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night, May through October. But, the Astronomy Festival is the main event."

We hope to see you there!

For more information consult the Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival Website.

Did You Know?

Main entrance sign with Interpretation staff

Bryce Canyon, first designated Bryce Canyon National Monument on June 8, 1923; reached National Park status on September 15, 1928. More...