Death Valley Dark Sky Festival

DARK SKY 2024 text filled in with dark blue and purple stars in the milky way.

March 1 - 3, 2024

 
 

Most outdoor events for Friday (3/1) and Saturday (3/2) have been cancelled due to very high winds (up to 65 mph) and blowing dust. See schedule updates below. Additional schedule changes may be necessary.


Death Valley offers some of the best stargazing in America. The International Dark-Sky Association has designated Death Valley National Park a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park, which is the highest rating of darkness.

During our annual spring Dark Sky Festival, visitors are invited to come explore the night sky and the unique park landscapes which can help us better understand wonders beyond our world. This event is a collaboration between Death Valley National Park, our non-profit partner Death Valley Natural History Association, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and California Institute of Technology.

Event Schedule

Find 2024's stellar lineup below! Click the images below for festival events. Stay tuned for additional announcements - we hope to see you there!

 

 
The black side profile silhouette of a woman in front of a screen with a colorful image of a galaxy
Auditorium Talks

Attend a talk to learn about the mysteries of the universe and how we explore them.

A scientist helps a child look through a telescope with a solar lens.
Exploration Fair

Participate in hands on activities at various booths.

A man standing on sand dunes talks to a crowd with mountains in the background.
Talks Around the Park

Learn from a scientist out in the field.

Night image with red light illuminating a wooden fence and historic wooden twenty mule team wagon.
Astrophotography Meetups

Take night photos in one of the darkest places in the United States.

Night image of two people holding hands looking at the Milky Way.
Astronomy Programs

Learn about the night sky through ranger talks and telescope viewings.

A child constructs an arts and crafts "Mars Rover".
Family Programs

Activities for the whole family

 

2024 Event Schedule by Day

Furnace Creek Auditorium Presentations

Astrophotography “How-to” Session
Kayla McCraren (NPS)
An opportunity to learn how to take pictures of the stars with your own DSLR camera! Note this session is intended for astrophotography newcomers. Participants should bring their DSLR camera and tripod.
2:30 PM - 3:30 PM, Furnace Creek Auditorium

Keynote Talk

Lunar Trailblazer
Bethany Ehlman (Caltech)
The upcoming Lunar Trailblazer mission is among the first of a new type of NASA mission: small satellites for planetary exploration. Lunar Trailblazer follows up on the discovery of water on the Moon, one of the most surprising discoveries of the 2000s. Lunar Trailblazer will map the distribution of different forms of water on the surface of the moon to better understand the lunar water cycle and inform future human missions as to where supplies of water may be found and extracted as a resource. 
7:00 PM  -8:00 PM

Tickets are required for the Keynote talks. Pick up your free ticket on a first come first serve basis starting the day before at Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

Astrophotography Meet-up

Kayla McCraren (NPS) *Canceled due to high winds*
An opportunity to photograph the stars in one of the darkest locations in the country. Astrophotography volunteers and rangers will be on hand to assist. A DSLR and tripod are essential to enjoy this session
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Astronomy Programs

Furnace Creek Star Party *Canceled due to high winds*
Las Vegas Astronomical Society
Explore the night sky through telescopes directed at different planets, stars and more!
Ranger guided constellation tours on the half hour (7:30 PM, 8:30 PM, 9:30 PM)

7:00 PM - 10:00 PM, Furnace Creek Airport

Caltech Presents: Astronomy on Tap
Join Caltech Scientists for two 20-minute public astronomy talks and space-themed pub trivia over food and drinks at the Badwater Saloon!  All ages welcome.
Talk #1: The Mystery of Cosmic Rays - Kathryn Plant (JPL)
Talk #2 The Starry Tapestry: Myrths and Legends of the Night Sky - Kaustav Das (Caltech)
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM, Badwater Saloon, Stovepipe Wells 

Furnace Creek Auditorium Presentations

Settling Our Place in the Universe with the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope 
Dominic Benford (Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope)
Hear from NASA scientist, Dominic Benford, about NASA’S next flagship observatory, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. Scheduled to launch in three years, Roman is designed to settle essential questions relating to our place in the universe. It will explore how dark energy and dark matter shaped the cosmos we see around us and how the universe will evolve.  It will discover a wealth of exoplanets to answer the question of whether solar systems like ours are common, rare, or perhaps unique.
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM, Furnace Creek Auditorium

The Future of Space Exploration: From Terraforming to Solar Sails
Cameron Hummels (Caltech)
Over the last 70 years, humanity has emerged from its cradle on Earth and begun to explore space, with spacecraft visiting every major body in our Solar System.  Humanity is now seriously contemplating ideas that were previously considered science fiction. When will we establish a permanent presence on another world? Is it possible (or advisable) to terraform another planet to make it inhabitable for humans? Can we actually travel to neighboring star systems to study them at close range? Join me as I discuss the science of space exploration and forecast our next steps in exploring our Solar System and beyond.
11:30 AM - 12:30 PM, Furnace Creek Auditorium

Photographing Mars
Doug Ellison (JPL)
Visitors to Death Valley leave with amazing memories and a smart phone full of photos. But what if your road trip was to Mars? What photos would you take, and how would you take them. Doug Ellison has taken more than 23,000 images with the Curiosity and Opportunity Mars Rovers, and will explain some of the challenges of operating cameras on a Mars Rover, and what might Death Valley look like if a Mars Rover were to come home - just where is the most Mars-like landscape in the park? 
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM, Furnace Creek Auditorium

Astrophotography “How-to” Session
Kayla McCraren (NPS)
An opportunity to learn how to take pictures of the stars with your own DSLR camera! Note this session is intended for astrophotography newcomers. Participants should bring their DSLR camera and tripod.
2:30 PM - 3:30 PM, Furnace Creek Auditorium

Keynote Talk

Black Holes Don’t Suck!
Varoujan Gorjian (JPL)
What are black holes? What role do they play in the evolution of stars and Galaxies? Are they really the vacuum cleaners of the Universe? Come learn about all of their weird and amazing characteristics and see why black holes don’t suck!
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM, Furnace Creek Auditorium

Tickets are required for the Keynote talks. Pick up your free ticket on a first come first serve basis starting the day before at Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

Talks Around the Park

Searching for Signs of Ancient Life on a Cold and Desolate Mars 
*Canceled due to high winds and blowing dust*
Michael Tuite (JPL)
Exploration of Mars has revealed that the cold and arid planet was once much warmer and wetter - a place potentially hospitable to the emergence of life. Might life have arisen on early Mars like it did on Earth? If it did, what signatures of ancient life might be preserved in rocks on Mars’ surface? Today, the Perseverance rover is collecting geological samples on Mars that may contain evidence of ancient life. Those samples are scheduled to be returned to the Earth within a decade so that scientists can use the most sophisticated, state-of-the-art instruments to address one of science’s Big Questions: Are we alone?
9:30 AM - 10:30 AM, Mars Hill (park on shoulder of road near Artists Drive Exit) Short Walk

Mars-like Places on Earth: A Journey into the Ubehebe Crater
 
*Canceled due to high winds and blowing dust*
Rosalba Bonaccorsi (Ames/SETI)
Places in Death Valley appear similar to places on the Red Planet. Come learn how research in Death Valley can help guide us in our understanding of Earth's neighbor.
11:00 AM - 1:00 PM, Ubehebe Crater Strenuous Walk to bottom of Ubehebe Crater

Tiny Gems, Big Discoveries: Unearthing the Hidden Tales of Badwater Basin's Microbial World
Zakaria Jibrin (Goddard Space Flight Center)
Embark on an enlightening journey into the microscopic wonders of Death Valley! From the captivating process of bone growth to understanding how bacteria cause kidney stones, our expedition illuminates a strangely similar world within Badwater Basin. Wrapping up with groundbreaking research that may pave the way for detecting life on another planet!
11:30 AM - 12:30 PM, Badwater Basin Static Presentation

Dune Stories: Earth, Mars, & Titan 

*Canceled due to high winds and blowing dust*
Mike Malaska (JPL)
Dunes are everywhere! Mars, Titan, Pluto, and even on Comet 67P! Come out to Mesquite Dunes and we’ll learn about the sediment cycle, how dunes form, what clues to look for in a dune field, and compare and contrast dunes on Earth with those on other worlds. 
2:30 PM- 3:30 PM, Mesquite Sand Dunes Moderate Walk

The Brightness of the Void

*Canceled due to high winds and blowing dust*
Leslie Heid (JPL)
Join us on this evening walk as we explore the infinite rainbow that fills our cosmos.  Mission Modeler Leslie Heid from JPL's Deep Space Network discusses the electromagnetic spectrum, how we see what stars are made of, and the advantages and disadvantages of different wavelengths for use in spacecraft communications.
8:30 PM- 9:30 PM, Zabriskie Point Short Walk

Astronomy Programs

Furnace Creek Star Party *Canceled due to high winds. In lieu of this, additional programs are scheduled at the Furnace Creek Auditorium for 9:00 PM: a 20 minute talk on Ubehebe Crater use as an analog for other planets, and a 20 minute talk on lasers and light spectra.*
Las Vegas Astronomical Society, NPS
Explore the night sky through telescopes directed at different planets, stars and more!
Ranger guided constellation tours on the half hour (7:30 PM, 8:30 PM, 9:30 PM)
7:00 PM - 10:00 PM, Furnace Creek Airport

Caltech Presents: Astronomy on Tap

Join Caltech Scientists for two 20-minute public astronomy talks and space-themed pub trivia over food and drinks at the Wildrose Tavern!  All ages welcome.
Talk #1 How Supermassive Black Holes Shape their Host Galaxies - Joanna Piotrowska-Karpov (Caltech)
Talk #2 (star)Dust to Dust: the Formation, Observaiton, and Impact of Space Dust - Sam Rose (Caltech)
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM, Wildrose Tavern, The Oasis at Death Valley

Astrophotography Meet-up

Kayla McCraren (NPS) *Canceled due to high winds*
An opportunity to photograph the stars in one of the darkest locations in the country. Astrophotography volunteers and rangers will be on hand to assist. A DSLR and tripod are essential to enjoy this session
8:30PM-9:30PM, Harmony Borax Works

Family Program

Build A Mars Lander
*Canceled due to high winds and blowing dust*
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/NPS
Become a NASA engineer! Design, build, and land your own “spacecraft” on Mars. Suitable for all ages. Children under 12 must be accompanied by a caretaker.
10:00 AM - 10:45 AM, 2:00 PM - 2:45 PM, White tent behind Furnace Creek Visitor Center

Exploration Fair

Explore the booths at the Exploration Fair to talk with scientists and participate in hands on activities.
10:00 AM - 4:00 PM, Furnace Creek Visitor Center Courtyard
(moved to inside the visitor center)

Furnace Creek Auditorium Presentations

Astrobiology 101: The Search for Life on Other Planets
Luke Sollitt (Ames)
Not too long ago, the idea of astrobiology was confined only to the realm of science fiction. Over the last 30+ years, however, it has evolved into a major academic field, and has become one of the principal foci of NASA’s exploration enterprise. Astrobiologists are looking for life on other worlds. What does it mean to do that? What are they looking for, and how are they looking? Dr. Sollitt will talk about what this new science is, and how it gets done with telescopes looking at the stars, missions to other worlds of our Solar System, and right here on Earth studying strange life forms that would have been thought impossible in the quite recent past.
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM, Furnace Creek Auditorium

Astrophysicist Q&A

Various (Caltech)
A panel of professional astronomers and astrophysicists from Caltech will field questions from the audience on all topics related to astronomy, physics, and space science.  Join us and bring your burning questions about planets, stars, galaxies, life in the universe, black holes, science fiction, and more!
11:30 AM - 12:30 PM, Furnace Creek Auditorium

The Next Total Solar Eclipse: Where and How to Watch It, and What's Happening
Andrea Jones (Goddard)
On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing through Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Come learn where and how to watch it safely, and what's going on in space to let us witness this spectacular event. Learn too, about NASA's exploration of the Moon and our preparations to go back, with people, through the Artemis program.
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM, Furnace Creek Auditorium

Amateur Astronomy and Astrophotography in our National Parks and Public Lands with an intro to light pollution

Jeremy Evans (IDA Ambassador)
This program covers light pollution and prevention followed by a night sky tour using basic photography equipment and deep sky telescope imaging. Featuring images from Death Valley, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, and more, see the Milky Way, lunar rainbows, meteor showers, distant galaxies, comets and nebulas. Come learn more about night photography and astronomy or simply enjoy the slideshow.
2:30 PM - 3:30 PM, Furnace Creek Auditorium

Talks Around the Park

Searching for signs of ancient life on a cold and desolate Mars
Michael Tuite (JPL)
Exploration of Mars has revealed that the cold and arid planet was once much warmer and wetter - a place potentially hospitable to the emergence of life. Might life have arisen on early Mars like it did on Earth? If it did, what signatures of ancient life might be preserved in rocks on Mars’ surface? Today, the Perseverance rover is collecting geological samples on Mars that may contain evidence of ancient life. Those samples are scheduled to be returned to the Earth within a decade so that scientists can use the most sophisticated, state-of-the-art instruments to address one of science’s Big Questions: Are we alone?
9:30 AM - 10:30 AM, Mars Hill Short Walk

Ubehebe Crater: An Explosive Analog for Planetary Volcanism
Zach Morse (Goddard Space Flight Center)
Volcanism is a geologic process that connects many planetary bodies across the solar system. Come for a short walk to learn about the explosive eruptions that created Ubehebe Crater and how they can teach NASA scientists about the volcanic history of the Moon and Mars.
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM, Ubehebe Crater Short Walk

Tiny Gems, Big Discoveries: Unearthing the Hidden Tales of Badwater Basin's Microbial World
Zakaria Jibrin (Goddard Space Flight Center)
Embark on an enlightening journey into the microscopic wonders of Death Valley! From the captivating process of bone growth to understanding how bacteria cause kidney stones, our expedition illuminates a strangely similar world within Badwater Basin. Wrapping up with groundbreaking research that may pave the way for detecting life on another planet!
11:30 AM - 12:30 PM, Badwater Basin Static Presentation

Dune Stories: Earth, Mars, & Titan
Mike Malaska (JPL)
Dunes are everywhere! Mars, Titan, Pluto, and even on Comet 67P! Come out to Mesquite Dunes and we’ll learn about the sediment cycle, how dunes form, what clues to look for in a dune field, and compare and contrast dunes on Earth with those on other worlds. 
2:30 PM - 3:30 PM, Mesquite Sand Dunes Moderate Walk

The Brightness of the Void
Leslie Heid (JPL)
Join us on this evening walk as we explore the infinite rainbow that fills our cosmos.  Mission Modeler Leslie Heid from JPL's Deep Space Network discusses the electromagnetic spectrum, how we see what stars are made of, and the advantages and disadvantages of different wavelengths for use in spacecraft communications.
8:30 PM - 9:30 PM, Zabriskie Point Short Walk

Astronomy Programs

NPS
Explore the incredible night sky with a ranger! Bring a red flashlight to protect night vision. Optional items: binoculars and chair.
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM, Harmony Borax Works

Family Program

Build A Mars Lander
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/NPS
Become a NASA engineer! Design, build, and land your own “spacecraft” on Mars. Suitable for all ages. Children under 12 must be accompanied by a caretaker.
10:00 AM - 10:45 AM, 2:00 PM - 2:45 PM, White tent behind Furnace Creek Visitor Center

Exploration Fair

Explore the booths at the Exploration Fair to talk with scientists and participate in hands on activities.
10:00 AM - 2:00 PM, Furnace Creek Visitor Center Courtyard

 

Where to Stay

The park gets busy during the festival, so we recommend making reservations early. Camping and lodging options are available.

Enjoying the Park at Night

Want to experience Death Valley at night but can't make it for the festival? Rangers have created a list of some of the best ways to explore Death Valley after dark.

Accessibility

 

Welcome to Death Valley National Park! Please be aware that the temperatures, weather, altitude, traffic, construction and road conditions in Death Valley may vary and change depending on the time of year. Before your visit, we suggest you check out our park website (road conditions and alerts), the National Weather Service’s forecast for the area of the park you plan to visit, and/or contact our team for current updates (deva_information@nps.gov).

 

Weather

Death Valley in the Spring can experience moderate, to slightly chilly, to hot temperatures.  

 Average February Temperatures: 73°F- 46°F or 23°C-8°C.  

Record February Temperatures: 98°F-21°F or 37°F- -6°F. 

Other Weather Conditions: Can experience possible light showers; frequent wind/dust storms with winds that could reach up to 50 mph or 80 kmh  

Altitude: Altitude throughout the park and along the main roads can drastically change from -127ft/-39m below sea level to 5,000ft/1,829m in elevation. 

 

Cellular Signal and Wi-Fi

Cellular signal and Wi-Fi capabilities are weak. Please keep this in mind if you use any Wi-Fi enabled medical devices.

Call 911 

If it is an emergency and if you have cell signal, call 911. Death Valley has its own EMT first responders.
 

First Aid Room 

Located at Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center. Speak to a Ranger for access. 
 

Intermountain Healthcare Pahrump InstaCare Clinic (Urgent Care) 

1397 S Loop Road, Pahrump, NV 89048 

(775) 727-5500 

8AM-8PM 
 

Desert View Hospital 

360 S Lola Lane, Pahrump, NV 89048 

(775) 751-7500 

24/7 

Interpretation for American Sign Language available upon request.

Please email our team at deva_information@nps.gov at least 2 weeks in advance.

Parking 

  • 6 accessible parking spaces; 4 uncovered,  2 covered 

  • Curb cuts to main entrance and throughout the parking lot 

Facility 

  • 2 accessible restroom stalls, and 1 private, accessible family restroom 

  • Automatic door opener for front and back patio doors 

  • Accessible auditorium, patio and museum 

  • Paved, flat surfaces throughout auditorium, patio and museum  

  • Assistive listening devices available; please speak to a ranger at the front desk 

  • Wheelchair available for loan 

  • 3 benches by the restroom 

  • 5 picnic non-accessible tables  

  • 11 benches in the courtyard 

Auditorium 

  • Double door entry, double door exit, and single door exit 

  • 4 single-sized areas and 2 double-sized areas for mobile assistance devices in seating zone 

Parking 

  • 6 Accessible Parking Spaces; 4 uncovered, 2 covered 

  • Curb cuts to main entrance and throughout the parking lot 

Facility 

  • 2 accessible restroom stalls with bars, and 1 private, accessible, family restroom 

  • 3 benches by the restroom 

  • 5 picnic tables  

Courtyard 

  • Outdoor and indoor (via automatic door openers) access to area 

  • Paved, flat surfaces throughout 

  • 11 benches 

  • 4 shade awnings  

Badwater Basin 

  • Scenic viewpoint with boardwalk and optional, walkable salt flat trail 

  • Not easily viewed from car 

  • 3 accessible parking spaces 

  • Accessible vault toilets 

  • Ramp and boardwalk to the edge of Badwater Pool 

  • Ramp from end of boardwalk onto salt flats (please be aware of holes in salt flats) 


Zabriskie Point

  • Scenic viewpoint; Steep, paved grade to approach the viewpoint; 3 rest stops at viewpoints; Not easily viewed from car
  • 2 accessible parking spaces
  • Accessible 2 vault toilets

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes 

  • Scenic Viewpoint and optional hikeable, deep sand beyond viewing area 

  • Can be viewed from car 

  • Access to dunes is rocky and uneven; Dune hike includes deep sand 

  • 4 accessible parking spaces with curb cuts 

  • Accessible vault restroom 

Ubehebe Crater 

  • Scenic Viewpoint and optional uneven, rocky and strenuous, hikeable pathway up and around the crater or descending into the crater 

  • Can be viewed from car or viewpoint 

  • 2 accessible parking spaces with curb cuts 

  • Restrooms not accessible or near viewpoint 

  • Closest restroom at Grapevine Ranger Station 5.8mi/9.3km or 17 minutes south of viewpoint on the North Highway 

Harmony Borax Works 

  • Interpretive trail ¼ of a mile/0.4km long 

  • Partially paved surface with small sections of sand, gravel, broken pavement, and gradual uneven dips 

  • Moderate grade-- assistance may be necessary 

  • Cannot be viewed or accessed from car 

  • 2 accessible parking spaces 

  • Restrooms are not accessible or near trailhead 

  • Closest restroom at Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center 1.8mi/2.3km or 4 minutes southeast of trail on the 190 highway. 

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes 

  • Scenic Viewpoint and optional hike, deep sand beyond viewing area 

  • Can be viewed from car 

  • Access to dunes is rocky and uneven; Dune hike includes deep sand 

  • 4 accessible parking spaces with curb cuts 

  • Accessible vault restroom 

Harmony Borax Works 

  • Interpretive trail ¼ of a mile/0.4km long 

  • Partially paved surface with small sections of sand, gravel, broken pavement, and gradual uneven dips 

  • Moderate grade-- assistance may be necessary 

  • Cannot be viewed or accessed from car 

  • 2 accessible parking spaces 

 

Parking 

  • 6 Accessible Parking Spaces; 4 uncovered, 2 covered 

  • Curb cuts to main entrance and throughout the parking lot 

Facility 

  • 2 accessible restroom stalls with bars, and 1 private, accessible, family restroom 

  • 3 benches by the restroom 

  • 5 picnic tables  

Courtyard 

  • Outdoor and indoor (via automatic door openers) access to area 

  • Paved, flat surfaces throughout 

  • 11 benches in the courtyard 

  • 4 shade awnings  

 
A rocky desert landscape with the remains of a rusty car in the foreground and the Milky Way arching over mountains in the distance in a starry night sky.
Viewing the Milky Way in Death Valley National Park can be a humbling experience.

© Patrick Taylor

Last updated: March 2, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328

Phone:

760 786-3200

Contact Us