Death Valley Dark Sky Festival

A blue and black logo of a woman's silhouette with the Milky Way in the background

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

The 2023 festival is almost here! This year's festival dates are February 10-12. Click the images below for festival events. 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

 

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.
1PM-2PM

Keynote Talk

Exploration of Venus
Ralph Lorenz (Applied Physics Lab)
Our sister planet is soon to be explored by new space missions, with orders-of-magnitude improvement in radar studies by EnVision/VERITAS, and in-situ exploration with near-surface imaging by the DAVINCI probe. I'll review plans for these and other missions, as well as recent findings by the Japanese Akatsuki spacecraft currently in orbit.

6PM-7PM

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-ups

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
7PM-8PM, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes


Astronomy Programs

Caltech Presents: Astronomy on Tap
Join Caltech scientists for two 20-minute public astronomy talks and space-themed pub trivia. All ages welcome!
7:30PM-9:30PM, Badwater Saloon, Stovepipe Wells 

Ranger Program
(NPS)

Explore the incredible night sky with a ranger! Bring a red flashlight to protect night vision. Optional items: binoculars and chair.
8PM-9PM, Harmony Borax Works

 

 

 

Furnace Creek Auditorium Presentations

The Dynamic Landscape of Death Valley, As Seen By NASA's NISAR Mission
Carson Schubert (JPL)
Death Valley is one of the most interesting geologic locations on earth, playing host to an incredible variety of landscapes and ecosystems. The story of this place, both past, present, and future, teaches us about both Earth and worlds beyond our own. Learn how NASA's NISAR mission will tell this story in unprecedented detail and unlock the mysteries of Death Valley.
10AM-11AM

The Science of Black Holes
Cameron Hummels (Caltech)
Black holes are some of the most exotic bodies in the universe. They are objects with such a strong gravitational attraction that not even light can escape, and they are popular in science fiction due to their strange effects on time and matter, but what do we actually know about them? In this talk, I will discuss the many scientific advances that have occurred in the last decade leading to a greater understanding of how black holes are born, how they can die, and how we can see them.
11:30AM-12:30PM

30 Years of Mars Exploration: The Roving Generation
Doug Ellison (JPL)
Since 1997 NASA has sent a total of 5 different rovers to Mars. How did they come to be, how have they changed and what have they discovered? Learn about the challenges, failures and successes of roving the red planet.
1PM-2PM

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.
2:30PM-3:30PM

Keynote Talk

The Cosmic Autobiography
Katarina (Dida) Markovic (JPL)
Cosmology is the study of the full history of our universe from the first moment of the Big Bang, to its inevitable death in the distant future. Listen to the story about how we understand the universe came to be as it is, including its particles, forces, stars, galaxies, as well as the ever-mysterious dark matter and dark energy.

7PM-8PM

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
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?
9:30AM-10:30AM, Mars Hill (park on shoulder of road near Artists Drive Exit)

Who’s Swimming in Salty Waters?
Meghana Kumar (JPL)
Come learn about the harsh, hydrologic environments of Badwater Basin and Jovian moon Europa. We’ll discuss how organisms are able to survive in Badwater Basin, the geological features of Badwater Basin and Europa, and how NASA’s Europa Clipper mission will determine if Europa harbors conditions suitable for life beneath its icy shell.
11AM-12PM, Badwater Basin

Mars-like Places on Earth: A Journey into the Ubehebe Crater
Rosalba Bonaccorsi (SETI INstitute/ NASA Ames Research Center)
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. Strenuous hike into the bottom of the crater.
11AM-1PM, Ubehebe Crater

Dantes View: SunRISE and Parallels to Humans Hiking
Shannon Berger (JPL)
SunRISE is a constellation mission that will have 6 space vehicles spread across 7 miles to study coronal mass ejections from our sun. Learn how keeping space vehicles flying is similar to how humans function.
1PM-2PM, Dantes View

Dune Stories: Earth, Mars, & Titan
Michael Malaska (JPL/CalTech)
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.
3:30PM-4:30PM, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Astronomy Programs

Moon Walk
Ranger Program (NPS)
Walk under the light of the moon as you join a ranger on an easy morning walk on the moonlit salt flats.
5:30AM-6:30AM, Badwater Basin

Furnace Creek Star Party
Caltech/Las Vegas Astronomical Society/NPS
Telescope event put on by the Las Vegas Astronomical Society and Caltech. Park rangers offer constellation tours at 7:30, 8:30, and 9:30.
7PM-10PM, Sunset Campground overflow lot

Astrophotography Meet-up

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
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.
10AM-10:45AM, 2PM-2:45PM, 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.
10AM-4PM Furnace Creek Visitor Center Courtyard

Furnace Creek Auditorium Presentations

The Dynamic Landscape of Death Valley, As Seen By NASA's NISAR Mission
Carson Schubert (JPL)
Death Valley is one of the most interesting geologic locations on earth, playing host to an incredible variety of landscapes and ecosystems. The story of this place, both past, present, and future, teaches us about both Earth and worlds beyond our own. Learn how NASA's NISAR mission will tell this story in unprecedented detail and unlock the mysteries of Death Valley.
10AM-11AM

Astrophysicist Q&A
Cameron Hummels, Parke Loyd
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!
11:30AM-12:30PM

30 Years of Mars Exploration: The Roving Generation
Doug Ellison (JPL)
Since 1997 NASA has sent a total of 5 different rovers to Mars. How did they come to be, how have they changed and what have they discovered? Learn about the challenges, failures and successes of roving the red planet.
1PM-2PM

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?
9:30AM-10:30AM, Mars Hill (park on shoulder of road near Artists Drive Exit)

Who’s Swimming in Salty Waters?
Meghana Kumar (JPL)
Come learn about the harsh, hydrologic environments of Badwater Basin and Jovian moon Europa. We’ll discuss how organisms are able to survive in Badwater Basin, the geological features of Badwater Basin and Europa, and how NASA’s Europa Clipper mission will determine if Europa harbors conditions suitable for life beneath its icy shell.
11AM-12PM, Badwater Basin

Ubehebe Crater: An Explosive Analog for Planetary Volcanism
Marie Henderson (Goddard)
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.
11AM-12PM, Ubehebe Crater

Dantes View: SunRISE and Parallels to Humans Hiking
Shannon Berger (JPL)
SunRISE is a constellation mission that will have 6 space vehicles spread across 7 miles to study coronal mass ejections from our sun. Learn how keeping space vehicles flying is similar to how humans function.
1PM-2PM, Dantes View

Dune Stories: Earth, Mars, & Titan
Michael Malaska (JPL/CalTech)
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.
3:30PM-4:30PM, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Astronomy Programs

Furnace Creek Star Party
Caltech/Las Vegas Astronomical Society/NPS
Telescope event put on by the Las Vegas Astronomical Society and Caltech. Park rangers offer constellation tours at 7:30, 8:30, and 9:30.
7PM-10PM, Sunset Campground overflow lot

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.
10AM-10:45AM, 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.
10AM-2PM 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.

 
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: January 25, 2023

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 579
Death Valley , CA 92328

Phone:

760 786-3200

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