Great Basin Astronomy Festival

September 5th - 7th
Our 15th Annual Astronomy Festival is planned for September 5th - 7th. Ever so slightly after the new moon on September 2nd, the festival will feature guest speakers, ranger programs, art projects, rare tours, and dark skies.

 
Red lights fill a dark amphitheater with blurry figures as the colorful milky way arcs across the night sky
The Astronomy Festival occurs around the new moon in September of every year.

Tom Auchter

 
 

Be Prepared

The Astronomy Festival is one of the most exciting and busy events and weekends at Great Basin National Park. Planning ahead of time will ensure you have the best experience during your visit. Check back at this page regularly for updates if event schedules change.
Tips for a successful Astronomy Festival visit:

  • Camping at developed campgrounds within the Park will be first-come-first-served and will fill up quickly. Please visit the Lehman Caves Visitor Center or Great Basin Visitor Center for information on dispersed camping on public land outside of Great Basin National Park.
  • Fit into one car if possible. Parking is limited at astronomy events and you may be turned away.
  • Bring red lights. White flashlights are not allowed at festival events in order to preserve everybody's night vision.
  • Bring plenty of layers. Telescope viewing can go well into the evening and even summer days get cold after sunset. Check weather forecasts as the festival approaches.
  • All events are free, but reservations may be required. Check the list below or the park's events calendar for information on specific events and if reservations are required.
  • Interested in volunteering? Our festival star parties are almost entirely volunteer run and registration is required. Find more information at this link or further below.
 

Event Schedule

Find times and dates here, plus detailed event information and registration links further down the page.

 

Event Descriptions

Find information here on the details of each event during the Astronomy Festival. Check the schedule above for times and dates of each event.

Telescope Viewing & Star Parties

Each night of the festival, amateur astronomers gather with their telescopes near the Astronomy Amphitheater to showcase the night sky and dazzle any interested with the endless number of dark sky objects. Look at star-forming nebulas, star clusters older than our solar system, far off galaxies millions of light years distant, or our closer neighbors in the form of the planets which dot our night sky.

Telescope viewing is driven almost entirely by volunteers donating their time and the use of their delicate equipment to the park. Treat volunteers and their telescopes with the care & respect they deserve.

Interested in being a volunteer at the astronomy festival? All that's required is a telescope and a passion to share with the general public. If you'd like to volunteer, please contact the Astronomy Rangers via email by clicking here. Pre-registration is required, and those who show up without registering ahead of time will be turned away.

 
Silver stairs lead several feet into the air to a white dome suspended on a metal and concrete pillar. A vivid orange sunset lights the distant mountains.
The Great Basin Observatory peers into the night sky to help further new astronomical research and allow students as young as middle school to participate in science.

D. Highsmith

Guest Speakers

Each year, we invite speakers from the professional astrophysics and astronomy realms to come speak about their research, projects, or their work. During two nights of the festival, everyone is invited to the Astronomy Amphitheater to listen to their presentations, ask questions, and learn more about the endless possibilities of astronomy.

Each year one of the speakers will discuss their personal connection to the park through ongoing research from the Great Basin Observatory, the only research grade observatory in a national park.

2024 Speakers TBD.

Great Basin Observatory Tours

The Great Basin Observatory Tour requires advance registration. Reservations open at 8:00 am Pacific Time on August 5th. Register for GBO Tours at this link. After you sign up for a program you will receive instructions via e-mail. All park program participants must check in at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center the day of the program. Limited to 15 people.


Join a ranger to see the Great Basin Observatory the only research grade observatory in a National Park. Home to a 27-inch telescope, this observatory is used for research and education purposes. This program requires a 1-mile round trip hike on a gravel trail and paved road and standing for an hour. The Great Basin Observatory Tour is not wheelchair accessible.

Recommended equipment

  • Good walking shoes
  • Sun protection
  • Hat
 
A park ranger kneels over a canvas splayed out on the ground. A small rock wall with an underglow of red light illuminates the canvas and ranger.
Art in the Dark challenges our perspectives of color under the red light which doesn't hinder our night vision.

NPS / B. Mills

Art in the Dark

Join a Ranger and our Artist-in-Residence in an art project that experiments with how our eyes see color. This accessible and kid-friendly program will challenge artists to create and paint in low light conditions, under the guidance of the Astronomy Rangers. All needed art supplies will be provided.

Together, visitors and rangers will create a dazzling art piece in the Astronomy Amphitheater. This large piece will then be displayed for the remainder of the festival for all to see and share in.

Recommended equipment

  • Blankets
  • Warm clothing
 
A wooden cabin with light eminating from two windows lies beneath a swirling image of the night sky. Long exposure photography creates trails of the stars as the earth rotates. The swirls center around the unmoving north star Polaris.
Astrophotography can be fun and rewarding if you can handle the cold temperatures and late hours required to get the perfect shot.

NPS

Photo Workshops

Join an experienced astrophotographer and longtime Great Basin volunteer Don Riddle to learn the basics of night photography. Throughout the festival, Don will host events on photo editing, milky way photography, and nightly workshops to introduce astrophotography to all those interested.

These workshops are intended for beginner photographers looking to start exploring how to take nighttime pictures. Learn the advantages of various camera formats, exposure times, composition, and much more to enhance your ability to take beautiful night sky images.

Equipment needed for evening workshops:

  • Camera (DSLR or Mirrorless)
  • Wide angle lens (stock lenses are ok. f stop lower than 3.2 is preferred)
  • Tripod
  • Remote shutter control (Recommended)
  • Red light headlamp
  • Warm clothes
  • Camp chair (Recommended)
  • Extra memory card
  • Extra camera batteries
  • Thumb drive
 
Surrounded by people and red lights, a park ranger points a bright green laser towards the sky. The sky itself is not pictured, but the small crowd seated in chairs surrounding the ranger is the focus.
Constellation talks are brief but full of information about the night sky, including teaching us how to find our way in light polluted skies.

Tom Auchter

Constellation Talk

Join a ranger and volunteers for a night under the stars. This accessible program will guide visitors through the constellations, stars, and possibly galaxies visible to the unaided eye in the Great Basin night skies. Learn how to stargaze on your own for when you head back home.

Recommended equipment

  • Blankets

  • Warm clothing

  • Binoculars (not required)

 
A smiling park ranger stands next to a white table covered in cups filled with beads, pipe cleaners, and small colorful constellation models.
Rangers will help you build your own constellation using provided supplies and pictures!

NPS / M. Van Wicklin

Solar Telescopes and Crafts

Behind the Lehman Caves Visitor Center, rangers will have a solar telescope set up, allowing anybody to come and view our planet's closest star safely. View sunspots and prominences, filaments and ejections through our specialized telescope and see the sun as you never have before.

Next to the telescope, join in creating small, take-home crafts. Build a constellation using pipe cleaner and UV sensitive beads which change color under sunlight and glow in the dark. Perfect for all ages! No registration required, just drop by for a spell!

Note: If weather is poor, solar scope will be set up but the sun may not be visible.

Ranger Programs

Join park rangers as they present their astronomy programs in the dark of the Lehman Caves Visitor Center during the day. Topics vary, but our dark sky astronomy rangers will guide you through the night sky, our relationships with the stars, how they affect animals, or perhaps about caves on other planets!

Programs are free and require no advance registration, but the theater is limited in space. Some standing room is available.

Want to see some of these programs beyond the festival? Attend one of our many astronomy programs throughout the summer to see what our rangers have to share in addition to telescope viewing. Learn more here!

 

Accessibility

Have concerns about mobility or parking? What about bringing a service animal? Many questions about park programs and accessibility can be answered through the accessibility pages on the website.

We strive to make every program just as easy to attend for every member of the public, regardless of ability. However, the nature of some telescopes make them impossible to view through without requiring standing and balancing safely.

The best programs to attend for those with limited ability will be:

  • The solar crafts table behind the Lehman Caves Visitor Center each day of the festival
  • The Constellation Talks at the Astronomy Amphitheater each night
  • Art in the Dark the first night of the festival at the Astronomy Amphitheater.

Anyone may attend the Telescope Viewing/Star Party each night and some volunteers may have devices to allow those unable to stand or balance to view the telescope's focus. Great Basin Observatory tours are not fully accessible due to the stairs and gravel pathways leading to the dome.

Worried about making it down to the Astronomy Amphitheater from the Lehman Caves Visitor Center Parking lot? Speak with a ranger when you arrive and let them know. Limited parking is available for those with mobility issues next to the telescope viewing area and Astronomy Amphitheater.

 

More info on Great Basin Night Skies

Last updated: May 8, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

100 Great Basin National Park
Baker, NV 89311

Phone:

775-234-7331
Available 8:00 am - 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day

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