A modest telescope is capable of showing you amazing views of galaxies, nebulae, planets, binary stars and star clusters. To get a really good look at all the cool stuff that the universe dangles above you each night you need to get yourself and your telescope somewhere with clean air, high altitude, and away from city lights.
All of these things can be found in the western United State’s National Parks. Nowhere does the National Parks System do a better job integrating the natural wonders of the nighttime sky with the natural wonders of the land than in Bryce Canyon National Park, located in Southern Utah about four hours by car south of Salt Lake City.
This year, June 25th – 28th, Bryce Canyon National Park is hosting its 14th Annual Astronomy Festival, which is a huge, fun gathering of amateur astronomers, telescopes and park rangers in just about the nicest observing location for a public “star party” that it is possible to have.
Susie and I will be there with my telescope, participating each night with several dozen other amateur astronomy enthusiasts, showing the wonders of the universe to hundreds of park visitors.
Normally, when I take my 11” (diameter) telescope to a star party it is either the only telescope there or one of a few telescopes and it’s often considered a large telescope. But at Bryce? Ha! My telescope is merely one of dozens, and there are telescopes there that make my telescope seem like a runt.
The great thing about the Bryce Astrofest is the people you meet in the dark. The place is hip-deep in tourists from all over the world, many of whom have never before looked through a telescope. The enthusiasm generated by this event – shared in so many different languages – is a blast.
During the day you can explore the park and its completely amazing terrain. Then grab yourself some supper, crash for a couple of hours while you wait for it to get dark, and head out to the telescopes for an evening of mind-blowing views of the universe.
Bryce Canyon National Park, here I come!