National Park hosts astronomy festival

Theodore Roosevelt National Park entrance.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park hosts the seventh annual Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival Friday through Sunday, Sept. 1.
There will be park rangers, astronomers, and space enthusiasts of all types to explore North Dakota’s beautiful night skies in the park, a spokeman said.
Some daytime activities will be in the town of Medora, including model rocket building and launching, kids’ crafts and activities, “sun gazing,” solar system hikes, presentations, and hourly shows in Dickinson State University’s Discovery Dome in the park’s South Unit Visitor Center.

“Dakota Nights is our annual celebration of western North Dakota’s dark night skies and the wonders of the universe,” said Chief of Interpretation Eileen Andes.

“People have studied the night sky for millennia and protecting this valuable resource is necessary for us to continue to study, explore and enjoy it. Dakota Nights has something for people of all ages.”

Visitors are invited to enjoy presentations by special guest speakers at 7 p.m. MDT each evening at the park’s Cottonwood Campground amphitheater. Friday evening’s speaker is William Wren, from the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas – Austin. He will speak about the importance of preserving dark night skies in areas of intense development.

On Saturday evening, Dr. Matt Craig, professor of physics and astronomy at Minnesota State University – Moorhead, will discuss how the story of the North Dakota Badlands and the stars above are intimately connected.

Brad Nasset, member of the Minnesota Astronomical Society and former Senior Project Manager at the Discovery Center at the University of Wisconsin – Stout, will discuss the rhythm of the night sky and secrets of finding the constellations.

After each evening’s presentation, astronomers will share the mysteries of the universe while star gazing in a field of more than a dozen telescopes at the historic Peaceful Valley Ranch.

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