Stargazing & Astronomy


Star party at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center during the Lassen Dark Sky Festival

NPS Photo

Lassen Astronomy poster, "See the Milky Way"

Half the park is after dark! From animals to plants and water to volcanoes, Lassen Volcanic National Park protects many different natural phenomena. One of the most spectacular is frequently overlooked -- our incredible, dark, night sky. Lassen Volcanic is one of the best places to learn about and enjoy the splendor of the night sky. Far from the light pollution of civilization, Lassen is one of the last sanctuaries of natural darkness. Whether you have yet to experience the grandeur of the Milky Way, or you are a dedicated amateur astronomer, Lassen's dark skies offer unparalleled view of the celestial wonders. Experience Lassen after dark:

  • Attend a Starry Night ranger-led program at various locations throughout the park
  • Join us for Lassen's Dark Sky Festival
  • Pick-up a night sky viewing book or sky chart from the Lassen Association bookstore, and explore the night skies on your own
  • Learn more about Night Skies online
  • New! Watch Lassen's Dark Sky video

Lassen Dark Sky Festival
Friday, August 7 through Sunday, August 9, 2015
Join park rangers, astronomers, and planetary geologists in celebrating all that is out of this world during Lassen's Dark Sky Festival. Special programs, presentations, hikes, and Junior Ranger Night Explorer activities will be offered during the festival. View photos from the Dark Sky Festival on Flickr or a video about the festival on YouTube.

New! View or print the 2015 Dark Sky Festival schedule.

Highlights Include:

Special Presentations

Ask a NASA Astronomer | Sachin Shenoy, NASA Ames Research Center
Our universe is filled with mystery. From dark matter to black holes, here is an incredible opportunity to ask a NASA astronomer about anything that has sparked your cosmic curiosity! | Sachin is an Associate Scientist at USRA's SOFIA Science Center located in Mountain View, CA. He is an observational astronomer researching physics and chemistry of interstellar dust. He is an avid outdoors person, hiking, camping, and bird watching in his free time and enjoy cooking food from various cuisine.

Life Elsewhere in the Universe | Dr. Sanjoy Som, NASA Ames Research Center; Blue Marble Space Science Institute
What is astrobiology anyway? Beyond 'searching for aliens,' astrobiology presents an opportunity to discover the intricacies of how our planet works and sustains life, and appreciate what this means in the broader context of life in the universe. | Dr. Som is an astrobiologist and systems engineer at NASA's Ames Research Center. His research focuses on atmospheric geology and environmental geochemistry. He is the co-founder of, a science-focused social network for science enthusiasts and scientists alike.

Astrochemistry - The Chemistry of the Stars
| Dr. Andrew Mattioda, NASA Ames Research Center
Until relatively recently "space" was thought to be a vacuum, empty. However that changed in the early 1970s when astronomers first started noticing small molecular species in space. Since that time we have discovered outer space contains a large variety of simple to complex molecules. Some of these molecules are organic in nature and resemble molecules similar to those that makeup life as we know it. Where do these molecules come from? Are they important to life on Earth or potential life in the Universe? Short of going out in space and "grabbing" them, how do we study molecules or other objects in space? This talk will shed some light on these questions. | Dr. Mattioda's current projects include: 1) Carrying out laboratory studies that simulate various environments found in space in order to better understand the chemistry that occurs there, with an emphasis on chemistry that leads to the formation of complex organic compounds. 2) Performing infrared spectroscopic studies on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon molecules (large, chicken wire-shaped organic molecules) under a variety of astronomical conditions. The information gained from these studies can then be used as chemical probes of the universe. 3) Working on cubesate (small satellite) missions as well as conducting experiments outside the International Space Station.

Exploring Mars for Evidence of Life | Dr. David Des Marais, NASA Ames Research Center
The climate of Mars has been more similar to that of Earth than has the climate of any other planet in our Solar System. Orbital observations determined that near-surface water was once pervasive. The Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Opportunity revealed that water once flowed to the surface in the vast Meridiani plains. MER Spirit found evidence in Gusev crater that hot spring waters altered rocks to create sulfate salt and siliceous sinter deposits. In Gale crater, Curiosity rover has found stream gravels and sediments that probably were deposited in an ancient lake. Curiosity is poised to examine a mountain slope having layers of rocks that have recorded ancient, diverse environments and profound climate change spanning hundreds of millions of years.

Searching for Life on Exoplanets | Dr. Niki Parenteau, NASA Ames Research Center; SETI Institute
The first exoplanet orbiting another star was discovered nearly 20 years ago, and the remarkably successful Kepler mission has detected 962 confirmed exoplanets and 3670 exoplanet candidates within its field of view. In fact, it appears that exoplanets are relatively common in our Milky Way galaxy, as researchers estimate that each of the roughly 100 billion stars should have at least one exoplanet. But what would life look like on planets orbiting stars different than our sun? This talk will discuss adaptations of photosynthetic pigments to different stellar types, and how studying life in the hot springs at Lassen can help inform our search for life elsewhere. | Dr. Parenteau is a geobiologist and astrobiologist at the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center. She studies the physiology of photosynthetic bacteria in extreme environments, and the production and preservation of in situ biosignatures such as lipid biomarkers, microfossils, and biofabrics. She also characterizes remotely detectable photosynthetic biosignatures, such as biogenic gases and reflectance spectra that might be visible on a habitable exoplanet.

America the Beautiful at Night | Wally Pacholka, Professional Photographer
Join renowned professional photographer Wally Pacholka for an evening of stunning photographs and stories. Wally will offer some tips for how he was able to capture some of his spectacular pictures in America's National Parks at night. | Wally is known for his stunning images of night skies in our national parks. He has won numerous national awards for his photography, including the TIME and LIFE's photo of the year (multiple times). His work has also been featured in Astronomy Magazine and on several national news networks, including ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC news.

A Visit to Pluto and Beyond! | Brian Grigsby, Shasta High School
The New Horizons mission will help us understand worlds at the edge of our solar system by making the first reconnaissance of the Pluto system and by venturing deeper into the distant, mysterious Kuiper Belt –a relic of solar system formation. | Brian is the Science Department Chair at Shasta High School. He is born and raised locally, and graduated from Shasta High and Chico State. He has served as the director of the Schreder Planetarium and has worked in several roles with NASA, including work on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Brian is the recipient of the 2014 National Space Club's Space Educator Award.

Majesty of the Night Sky | Vic Maris, StellarVue
This inspiring program will reveal the wonders of our universe. Rumor has it that Galileo himself may make an appearance! | Vic is a retired park ranger and naturalist whose passion is and always has been the night sky. He currently serves on the Board of the Astronomy Foundation and operates "Stellarvue" a telescope company.


Astronomy Programs

Night Sky Viewing (summer)

Starry Nights
Wednesdays | 9:00 - 9:45 pm | Devastated Area | through August 16, 2015
Join a park ranger for a program on stars, planets, and constellations. Hear stories and learn to locate objects in the sky. Dress warmly, night-time temperatures vary between 30 and 50 degrees F in the high elevations of the park.

Astronomy Talks
Various times and locations, check the ranger-led program schedule for specific dates.
Join a ranger for a auditorium or amphitheater program on topics that are out of this world such as tourist sights of the solar system, Earth's nearest neighbor - the moon, and our closest star - the sun.

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