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 15-17, 2023

Sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Nature & History Association. 

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


Ranger Led Talks

10:30 am MDT at the South Unit Visitors Center

  • Join Ranger Sydney for her program "Reflecting on Discovery: Build Your Own Kaleidoscopes"
  • Ranger Shae for her program "Navigating the Stars"

Solar Scopes

10:00 am - 2:00 pm MDT at Chimney Butte Park 
Safely view the sun through solar scopes with our amazing Astronomy Volunteers-In-Parks!

Hands-On Activities

10:00 am - 2:00 pm MDT at Chimney Butte Park 
Hands-on activities to inspire curiosity about the day and night sky.

All daytime talks are at the South Unit Visitor Center. 

Night On Fire with Professor Matthew Craig

Friday at 3:00 pm MDT
Join Professor Craig from Minnesota State University Moorhead to learn about how the recent fires and smoke effect our night skies! 

Exploring Eclipse with Anya Hartpence

Saturday at 10:00 am MDT 

Join Anya for outdoor activities exploring eclipses and how you can prepare for the upcoming eclipse later this year!

James Webb Space Telescope with Lynn Powers

Saturday at 3:00 pm MDT 
Join our James Webb Ambassador to check out the amazing photos the James Webb Space Telescope has been taking during its first year in space! 

Seeing Our Solar System with Nikkita Star

Sunday at 10:00 am MDT 
Join NASA Ambassador Nikkita for a super fun look at our solar system! Perfect for all ages to learn about the planets and beyond! 

Science in the Skies with Minnesota State University Moorhead

Sunday at 3:00 pm MDT 
Join the Minnesota State University Moorhead students as they share their favorite parts of the sky and all the amazing features of the sky that inspired them to study astronomy!

Peaceful Valley Ranch Night Viewings

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm MDT 
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.)

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 8, 2023

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