Night Sky Festival

Color photo of people viewing the night sky through telescopes with the Milky Way in the sky.
The night sky is magnificently brilliant at Joshua Tree.

NPS / Hannah Schwalbe


2017 Night Sky Festival: November 10-12

Joshua Tree National Park is proud to have recently been designated as an International Dark Sky Park at the Silver Tier level by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). The park strives to be a refuge for those who want to experience a naturally dark night sky.


We are anticipating this event to be so well-attended that we will need to turn people away.

Please remember:

  • This is a holiday weekend and a “fee-free” weekend. Expect long lines and limited parking.
  • Campgrounds will likely be full by Thursday midday.
  • In the park, you can only spend the night in designated campsites and areas. Learn more about other options outside the park.


Guest Speakers

Twentynine Palms Junior High
Friday, 5–6:30 pm
Saturday, 2–6:30 pm
5798 Utah Trail, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

Daytime Events

Sky’s the Limit
9697 Utah Trail, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Saturday & Sunday, 9 am–noon
Model rocket building and launching

Saturday & Sunday, 9 am–3 pm
"Orrery" (model solar system) tours and solar viewing.

Oasis Visitor Center
74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Saturday, 10 am–3 pm
Sunday, 9 am–noon
Astronomy fair and solar viewing.

Telescope Viewing

Friday and Saturday, 5:30–9:30 pm

Sky’s the Limit
9697 Utah Trail, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
100 parking spaces. There will be a limited shuttle service from Oasis Visitor Center.

Oasis Visitor Center
74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Don't miss the telescopes behind the building or along National Park Drive.

Cottonwood, Indian Cove, and Jumbo Rocks campgrounds
This event is open only to campers staying at these campgrounds.


Things to know

If you are attending any of the night programs, remember:

  • Bring a red flashlight. White lights are not permitted around telescopes. Find out more about night sky viewing etiquette and advice.
  • Bring warm clothing.
  • Dogs are not permitted at telescope viewing events.
  • Please be patient and flexible.

Come view the night sky throughout the year

Night sky programs are offered throughout the year. Check park bulletin boards for updated schedules.

There may be telescope viewings held outside the park by local partners, Sky's the Limit and Southern California Desert Video Astronomers.

Or, on any clear night, come enjoy the stars on your own! Read more about stargazing in Joshua Tree.

Watch a series of short films and learn why the NPS cares about protecting dark night skies.


Park Partners

The Joshua Tree National Park Night Sky Festival is brought to you through partnerships with the International Dark-Sky Association, Sky's the Limit Observatory and Nature Center, the Joshua Tree National Park Association, and Southern California Desert Video Astronomers.

Guest Speakers


Superintendent David Smith
5–5:30 pm

The Milky Way's Just an Hour Away!
Dr. Tyler Nordgren
5:30–6:30 pm
Author, Artist, and Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Redlands
Fewer than 1 in 3 Americans live in a place where you can still see the Milky Way. For visitors to America's National Parks this means that the view of a star-filled sky is as special today as seeing glaciers and grizzly bears. Why are our parks a refuge for seeing the stars and what can we learn about our planet and ourselves when we go there and finally get to see the Milky Way?


Perspectives From Saturn: Cassini's Two-Decade Exploration of the Ringed-World
Michael Staab, M.S.
2–2:30 pm
MER Spacecraft Systems Engineer and Flight Director at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
The Cassini spacecraft ended it’s nearly two-decade mission on September 15th 2017 following a fiery re-entry into Saturn’s atmosphere. Together, we take a journey with this decades-spanning mission, from Cassini’s launch from Cape Canaveral to its final transmissions high above Saturn, along the way discovering the ground-breaking science revealed at Saturn and what it means to explore the Cosmo.

Dawn: The Asteroids Awaken
Keri Bean, M.S.
2:45–3:15 pm
Mission Operations Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
What do TIE fighters and Dawn have in common? Is there a Hoth-like planet hidden in our solar system? In this talk, you’ll follow along with Dawn’s journey to explore some of the largest objects in our main asteroid belt and also learn about the engineering behind the mission.

From Galileo to Europa Clipper: Exploration at the edge of our Solar System
Dr. Julie Rathbun
3:30–4 pm
Professor of Physics, University of Redlands; Senior Scientist, Planetary Science Institute
Europa is one of the 4 major Galilean satellites of Jupiter. It's about the size of the Earth's moon and is covered in ice. There is strong evidence of a global ocean beneath Europa's icy crust that is moved by tidal energy, making this moon one of the best known spots for potential alien life.

Women in Science: Panel Discussion
Dr. Julie Rathbun, Keri Bean, and Jean Mueller
4–4:30 pm
Hear more about their perspectives and respond to your questions.

The Solar System: Beyond 6th Grade
Kevin Poe
5:30–6:15 pm
Much more has been learned, and is being taught, about the planets since most of us were in 6th Grade. Let, Dark Ranger Poe catch you up and then take you beyond the modern 6th grade understanding of our Solar System.

Guest Speaker Biographies

Dr. Tyler Nordgren
Author, Artist, and Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Redlands
Dr. Nordgren has helped design "Marsdials," one of which landed on Mars and the other is on board NASA's newest rover, Curiosity. He is the author of Stars Above, Earth Below: A Guide to Astronomy in the National Parks as well as Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets. He is also known for his award-winning artwork and night sky photography. Since 2007, Dr. Nordgren has worked closely with the U.S. National Park Service Night Sky Program to promote astronomy outreach and night-sky preservation in national parks. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the International Dark-Sky Association.

Michael Staab, M.S. in Aerospace Engineering
MER Spacecraft Systems Engineer and Flight Director
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
At JPL, Michael Staab is a Spacecraft Systems Engineering and Flight Director for the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, responsible for overall systems-level technical knowledge and health and safety of the rover. Previously, he was a Cassini Spacecraft Flight Controller, or ACE, responsible for overall command-and-control authority of NASA’s 3.5 billion dollar Cassini spacecraft. Michael holds a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Wichita State University, an M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and is a PhD candidate in the School of Aerospace Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. In addition, Michael is a commissioned Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer in the United States Navy Reserves.

Keri Bean, M.S.
Mission Operations Engineer
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
At JPL, Keri Bean works on two NASA missions, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity and the Dawn mission in the main asteroid belt. Previously she has worked on other missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope and Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity.

Dr. Julie Rathbun
Professor of Physics, University of Redlands
Senior Scientist, Planetary Science Institute
Dr. Julie Rathbun earned her PhD in astronomy from Cornell University in 1999 and has worked as an astronomer at Lowell Observatory and visiting scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Her research focuses on moons in the outer solar system, concentrating on the moons of Jupiter. She is a Co-Investigator on NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft mission, but Jupiter’s moon Io is still her favorite. She is also serving as the chair of the Division of Planetary Science’s Professional Climate and Culture Subcommittee.

Jean Mueller
Telescope Operator (retired) Jean Mueller was a librarian in Gerontology before spending 32 years as an observer and telescope operator first at Mt. Wilson Observatory, then at Palomar Observatory. While at Palomar, she discovered the minor planet she named Joshuatree. Ms. Mueller retired to Yucca Valley 3 years ago, and volunteers at Joshua Tree National Park.

Kevin Poe
Dark Ranger
Kevin Poe has degrees in Forestry and Recreation and Resource Management from Utah State Universtiy. He has more than 19 years of astonomy experience and has led telescope and astronomy programs in Bryce Canyon and other national parks throught the country.

Last updated: November 7, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597


(760) 367-5500

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