Next Friday and Saturday, Aug. 18-19, the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, in conjunction with their partner the Glen Canyon Natural History Association, will be hosting the first-ever stargazing party at Horseshoe Bend.
Those who attend the event will find five or six telescopes manned by knowledgeable park rangers and local amateur astronomers, which will be open for public viewing. Each telescope will be aimed at a separate celestial attraction and those in attendance will have a chance to look through each one. In addition to the telescopes, the park service will be providing constellation experts who will lead their stargazing attendees on a star tour. Using laser pointers, the presenters will take their terrestrial celestial devotees on a trip through the stars, planets, constellations and universe.
Friday night’s star tour will likely be led by Sarah Stannard, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area’s dark sky program coordinator. Saturday night’s star tour will be led by NPS Ranger Taylor Wood, who does a night sky program for the park service in the Wahweap Campground a couple times per month. ln addition to highlighting the stars and constellations, the rangers will incorporate information about how cultures throughout the world and throughout the eras have told stories about the stars.
“Taylor [Wood] gives an orientation of how different cultures throughout history have used the night sky in their philosophy, mythology or religion,” said Stannard.
The stargazing party will have a second component as well, which will be educating the public about the benefits of dark skies, and potential economic benefits of astro-tourism, said Amanda Boston, NHA’s program coordinator.
On Friday night, the city of Page will have a booth where they’ll provide information about dark sky tourism. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is moving forward with ways to improve the park’s astro-tourism already making changes to their buildings and grounds to make them dark sky compliant.
The city of Page is also considering adopting dark sky compliant regulations.
All questions about becoming a dark sky city, what that could mean for area tourism, and the steps involved to make those changes will be answered by the city representatives in the booth.
“Horseshoe Bend is a key boundary point along the Page city limits for discussing the effect of the city’s skyglow on astro-tourism,” said Boston.
The event is free and family friendly. Kids can complete their junior ranger night explorer badge at the event.
The NHA will also have a booth selling star- and constellation-related items such as star maps, books and telescopes.
It will also be selling eclipse glasses for the eclipse that will occur the following Monday.
The starwatching party occurs from 9 to 11 p.m. Aug. 18 and 19. Visitors should meet in the Horseshoe Bend Overlook parking lot.