Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will host an amateur astronomy night and star party on Friday, September 22 to celebrate the clear, dark night skies in the San Luis Valley and educate the public on how to experience this unique and endangered resource.
The event will kick off at 8:30pm at the South Ramada Picnic Area, adjacent to the main dunes parking area. Dark sky friendly lighting will illuminate walking paths from the dunes parking area to the South Ramada picnic area where members from various astronomy clubs such as the Southern Colorado Astronomical Society and the Great Sand Dunes’ Astronomy volunteer will set up multiple telescopes for visitors to view planets and deep sky objects. Visitors are welcome to bring their own equipment to participate and share their knowledge and appreciation of dark skies and celestial objects. Park rangers and volunteers will serve hot chocolate, demonstrate how to read a star chart, and lead an educational activity on planetary alignment. Visitors can also learn more about how to minimize light pollution in their community and contribute to the dark sky movement. The Western National Parks Association store will sell star charts, guide books on reading the night sky, flashlights and head lamps.
This event is free of charge and requires no advance registration. Visitors interested in camping at the Pinon Flats Campground should arrive early in the evening to set up camp in Loop 1 or Loop 2 for $20/night. Visitors are encouraged to wear warm layers, bring flashlights, and wear sturdy shoes.
Great Sand Dunes is one of the darkest national parks in the National Park System due to its high elevation, distance from light pollution, and relatively dry air. Great Sand Dunes’ surrounding communities, Crestone (on the northern boundary) and Westcliffe (on the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range), are dark sky friendly neighbors that protect this resource by encouraging their residents and businesses to install night friendly lighting. This has contributed to Great Sand Dunes reputation as an excellent and easily accessible dark sky viewing location.
For more information on this special events at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, please visit www.nps.gov/grsa or call the visitor center at 719-378-6399. For more information on other ways to experience the night, visit https://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/experiencethenight.htm