Astronomy

 
Illustrated Milky Way over a bristlecone pine
"Half the park is after dark!"

Dr. Tyler Nordgren

One of the last true dark skies in America...

As of spring 2016, Great Basin has been designated an International Dark Sky Park! The International Dark Sky Association has recognized that Great Basin provides distinguished and significant opportunities to experience dark nights. We protect our pristine nighttime environment for scientific, recreational, and cultural values.

On a clear, moonless night in Great Basin National Park, thousands of stars, five of our solar system's eight planets, star clusters, meteors, man-made satellites, the Andromeda Galaxy, and the Milky Way can be seen with the naked eye. The area boasts some of the darkest night skies left in the United States. Low humidity and minimal light pollution, combined with high elevation, create a unique window to the universe.

Can you make a difference with light pollution? Yes, look at the International Dark Sky Association website.

 

Astronomy Program Schedule

Astronomy program days and start times change throughout the year.
They are typically offered April through October on Saturday nights, with additional Tuesday and Thursday night programs during the summer season.

During the holiday weekends of Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day astronomy programs will be given both Saturday and Sunday nights. See park displays for start times.

Astronomy programs are offered on Saturday nights at 7:30 PM Pacific Time at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center.

The programs are free and no reservations are necessary. All astronomy programs will start with a ranger talk at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center, followed by ranger-led telescope viewing. Please do not bring your own telescopes; we have them available.

Astronomy program rules:

  • Please do not use white lights (flashlights or cell phones) during the program. Red lights are allowed.
  • Do not smoke, drink alcohol, or bring any pets to the program.
  • Bring a camp chair for comfort.
  • Wear layers - nights get cold.

Click for Great Basin National Park's Astronomical Forecast

 

Other Astronomy Activities in the Park

Star Train
Great Basin National Park and the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely, NV are once again teaming up to offer the NNRW's Star Train!
Riders begin their journey at the train station in Ely and ride the historic northern train route. Great Basin's dark rangers will be onboard to talk trivia, give out prizes, and answer questions. The train will stop out of town, where passengers can disembark to look through the park's high-powered telescopes and see planets, deep space objects, and more! (Weather permitting.) The train will return to Ely that evening. Tickets are required. Go to Nevada Northern Railyway's website to learn more about the train and reserve your spot. Note: 2017 star trains are sold out. Check back later for 2018 dates.

Full Moon Hike
On summer nights when the moon is too bright for our regular astronomy programs, join a dark ranger for a full moon hike! These highly popular hikes start just after sunset and traverse Great Basin under a moonlit sky. The program is free, but tickets are required. You can make reservations in person at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center. Please note: on nights when we offer a full moon hike, no regular astronomy program will occur.

Solar Telescope Viewing
On select summer afternoons, join us on the back porch of the Lehman Caves Visitor Center for safe solar telescope viewing of our closest star, the Sun! Great Basin has state-of-the-art solar telescopes to view sunspots, prominences, filaments, and magnetic storms. Fun for all ages.

For an offline description of these programs and more fun information, you can print our astronomy brochure [823 KB].

 

Astronomy Festival - September 21 - 23, 2017

Great Basin National Park will be hosting its annual Astronomy Festival. Enjoy three days and nights of astronomy-themed events, including the famous ranger talent show and stargazing through over 30 different telescopes!

 
The constellation Scorpius
Scorpius constellation

Photo by Tom Auchter

Want to explore the night sky on your own at Great Basin? Visit our stargazing page to learn where and when to go, what to bring, and what you might see.

 

Telescopes available at all astronomy programs has been generously funded by the Great Basin National Park Foundation.

Last updated: September 6, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Great Basin National Park
100 Great Basin National Park

Baker, NV 89311

Phone:

(775) 234-7331
Available 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Closed on federal holidays.

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