Explore the Universe For Free at Grand Canyon's 2014 Star Party

Have you ever been to the annual Grand Canyon Star Party? If not, you should check it out this June 21 to June 28 at the South Rim and North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Park visitors will get a chance to explore the wonders of the night sky with the help of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix.

The 24th annual star party brings together amateur astronomers and professors from across the country who will be there to answer questions, and point out the planets, stars, meteors, satellites and space station as they fly overhead. Volunteers will also offer free nightly slide programs and free telescope viewing.

Grand Canyon Star Party 2014

2011 Grand Canyon Star Party Image by Dean Ketelsen

Grand Canyon visitors will have the chance to view planets and stars, along with a wide assortment of galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae by night, and the sun by day. If you are lucky, you may even spot Venus or Mercury after sundown.

No need to bring your own telescope, as there are many set up and available to look through. The South Rim accommodates 80 or more telescopes. Some are the size of a water heater. Expect lines earlier in the evening at the larger telescopes; they tend to have easier access later at night as kids go to sleep. Therefore, later is better.

The Grand Canyon National Park has one of the best night sky observing sites in the United States because of its dark skies and clean air.

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The star gazing event is free (other than paying the park entrance fee). Reservations are not required. Bring a flashlight to make your way safely to the telescope area; it is incredibly DARK!

Red flashlights are best since the use of white lights is not permitted on the telescope lot. A red flashlight is easy to make: Just cover any flashlight with red cellophane or paint the lens with red nail polish or even a red permanent marker.

Telescope viewing continues into the night and visitors may arrive anytime after dark.

Event schedule:

South Rim
• Nightly 8:00 p.m. slide show in the theater at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center IMAX.
• Telescope viewing behind the building. Arrive early to get a seat. Doors open at 7:40 p.m.
• Green-laser Constellation Tours will be available at 9:00, 9:30 & 10:00 p.m.
• Parking is best in Lots 1 through 4. Take advantage of the free Village Route shuttle bus, which is available until 11:00 p.m.

North Rim
• Telescopes will be set up on the veranda at the Grand Canyon Lodge nightly.

Since nighttime temperatures at Grand Canyon can drop significantly, those attending the star party are advised to dress warmly.

For more information on the Grand Canyon Star Party, visit http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/grand-canyon-star-party.htm