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Contact: Abby Wines, 760-786-3221
DEATH VALLEY, CA –Death Valley National Park's Celestial Centennial and Mars Fest Symposium took place between April 8th and 10th and highlighted Death Valley's special connection to the night sky. Over 2,000 visitors participated in the event, which included stargazing through telescopes and presentations by astronomical experts.
Speakers presented on a broad range of astronomical topics, including: Dr. Tyler Nordgren discussed on the preservation of night skies in national parks;Dr. Jill Tarter talked about the search for life in the universe;Barbara Durham of the Timbisha Shoshone shared her tribe's connection to Death Valley and the night sky;Chris McKay of NASA talked about the possibility of life on the moons of Jupiter;and Bill Diamond gave an overview of SETI Institute's mission to search for evidence of life beyond Earth. A recording of a panel discussion between Dr. Tyler Nordgren, Dr. Jill Tarter, and Mat Kaplan, of the Planetary Society, will be available starting April 27 as a podcast through Planetary Radio at http://www.planetary.org/multimedia/planetary-radio/.
Visitors to the park during the weekend were treated to an expo in the Furnace Creek area with booths hosted by the SETI Institute, NASA, Sample Analysis at Mars, National Parks on the Air, the Amargosa Conservancy, and many more. Children were able to play with a mini-Mars rover, learn about Mars rocks by drilling into candy bars, and make microbe arts and crafts. Presentations ran throughout the day, and field trips in the morning took visitors to sites in Death Valley that are similar to Mars.
"This was a really great way to celebrate the National Park Service's Centennial," said Alexandra Rothermel, a park ranger who helped coordinate the event. "It perfectly showcases some of Death Valley's awesome aspects, like our beautiful night sky and unique, Mars-like landscape."
Despite the threat of rain, the stars put on a spectacular display during the night of April 9th. The Riverside Astronomical Society set up large telescopes and helped approximately 500 visitors see the stars, moon, and other planets.