Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is hosting an amateur astronomy night on Saturday, September 8th from 8:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. at the South Ramada picnic area near the Dunes Parking Lot. Telescopes will be set up at the South Ramada for planetary and deep-sky object viewing throughout the event. Ranger-led tours of the night sky begin at the South Ramada at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Staffed tables will provide astronomy information, handouts, and additional activities including an opportunity for kids to complete a Junior Ranger Night Explorer activity book and work towards earning a special night sky patch. Stargazers are encouraged to continue enjoying the dark skies after the event.
This event is free, though the regular park entrance fee of $20 per vehicle still applies when the entrance station is open; America the Beautiful passes are accepted at the park for entry. Camping in the park at Pinon Flats campground requires reservation and sites can be secured between four days and six months in advance at www.recreation.gov. In case of inclement weather, the event may be canceled or moved indoors to the park visitor center and auditorium.
This event relies on good weather and dark conditions, so visitors are advised to bring red light flashlights and headlamps to protect their night vision and wear warm and layered clothing due to nighttime temperatures. The welcome table will provide red cellophane and rubber bands to convert white lights to less harmful red ones.
Far from the light pollution of urban areas, Great Sand Dunes protects some of Colorado’s darkest night skies. On a clear, moonless night one can see thousands of stars, including the Milky Way, stretching across the sky. Whether attendees want to see the Milky Way, planets, and nebulae for the first time or simply desire a better connection with a true night sky, this free event aims to deliver opportunities to understand why dark skies are such an important resource.
Article Contributed by the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve