Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival

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Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival - see below for this year's dates and activity schedule.

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September 16-18, 2022

The following is this year's schedule of activities (expand each tab for more details):

Nightly Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!

8:30 to 11:00 pm Peaceful Valley Ranch

Join amateur astronomers and rangers under the stars. Rove from telescope to telescope, each trained on a unique
space object, while you listen to stories of night sky science and mythology. (Telescope field consists of gravel lot.)

Fermi Paradox: Why E.T. Can’t Phone Home with Doug Lively

FRIDAY 7:00 to 8:00 pm (Cottonwood Campground Amphitheater)

The search for life in the universe and why we’re having a difficult time finding it.

Fallen Star: A Story in the Sky and Earth  with Dakota Goodhouse (Tahansi/Sic’esi/Leksi)

SATURDAY 7:00 to 8:00 pm (Cottonwood Campground Amphitheater)

Explore the story of ascension of the traditional Lakota folk hero Fallen Star, his last camp on the vast open prairie, and his last journey to the stars.

Finding the Constellations with Andy Smithkin

SUNDAY 7:00 to 8:00 pm (Cottonwood Campground Amphitheater)

Discover how rangers view the night sky and how they unlock the secrets to finding the constellations.

Intro to E.E.A. with Doug Lively

SATURDAY 3:30 to 4:30 pm (South Unit Visitor Center)

A discussion of Electronically Assisted Astrophotography and how it differs from traditional Astrophotography.

JWST Revisited with Lynn Powers

SATURDAY 4:30 to 5:30 pm (South Unit Visitor Center)

Check out the amazing photos the James Webb Space Telescope has been taking!

Fallen Star: A Story in the Sky & Earth with Dakota Goodhouse (Tahansi/Sic’esi/Leksi)

SUNDAY 3:30 to 4:30 pm (South Unit Visitor Center)

Explore the story of ascension of the traditional Lakota folk hero Fallen Star, his last camp on the vast open prairie, and his last journey to the stars.

Solar System Hike

1:30, 2:30, and 3:30 pm (Chateau De Mores - outside if sunny, inside if raining)

Hike the distance between the Sun and Neptune (sorry, Pluto!) with a ranger.

Solar Scopes

1:00 to 4:00 pm (Chateau De Mores - outside if sunny, cancelled if raining)
Safely view the sun through solar scopes with our amazing Astronomy Volunteers-In-Parks!

Hands-on Activities

12:00 to 3:00 pm (Chateau De Mores - outside if sunny, inside if raining)

Hands-on activities for all ages to inspire curiosity about the day and night sky.



Want to learn more?

Dakota Nights doesn't just evolve around the festival - enjoy any and/or all of the following videos created surrounding our dark skies:
Globular Cluster of Stars (M13)

Tour of the Night Sky

Take a look at four well known objects in the North Dakota night sky. Nebula, clusters and galaxies, oh my!

Navajo Constellations of North Sky

Star Lore of the Indigenous Peoples

The Navajo have a deep connection to the night sky, especially the constellations in the northern sky.

constellations and asterisms

Constellations and the March of Time

Discover the Earth has a “wobble” and find out why Polaris hasn’t always been our north star.

Artist Rendition of a Rover on Mars

Mission to Mars 2020

Join Brad Nasset, NASA Solar System Ambassador as he talks about the many missions to the red planet, Mars.

Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter

See the Planets Tonight!

Curious about which planets are currently in the night sky? Join Brad Nasset as he shows you when and where to see the visible planets.

Star Clusters

Open Globular Star Clusters

What is a star cluster and how are they different from each other.


Our Magnetic Sun

Twinkle, twinkle little star! Which star is closest and what are its properties?

Great Horned Owl sitting on a branch

The Silent Flight of Owls

Owls are the ultimate nocturnal hunters. But how are they able to sneak up on their prey?


Do you have tapetum lucidum?

Spot animals on the side of the road at night by the shine of their eyes? What causes eyeshine and how does it help animals see in the dark?

Ranger with child at table

Make your own Astrolabe

Have you ever wondered about how astronomers learned about the movement of Earth and the placement of constellations throughout the galaxy?

cookies arranged in a circle as eight phases of the moon

Cookie Moon Phases

Have you ever wondered why the moon looks a little bit different every night?

Asteroid Impact Model with flour, sprinkles, cocoa, and rocks

Asteroid Impact Model

What does it look like when an asteroid crashes into the moon and how are craters formed?

Cassiopeia and Cepheus



Last updated: September 3, 2022

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