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Star Party in the Park

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Stargazing event peaks with Perseids meteor shower Aug. 11

Posted: Thursday, August 9, 2018 9:47 am

The Star Party in the Park at Arches National Park is taking place on Saturday, Aug. 11 as the Perseids meteor shower is expected to peak. Astronomers predict that people will be able to see over 60 meteors each hour late in the evening during that time.

Arches and Canyonlands national parks, collaborate during peak visitor season, from May through October, to present free monthly stargazing parties. Also known for its dark skies, Dead Horse Point State Park rangers host star parties as well.

“We take turns hosting each month,” Arches National Park Ranger Michael Matthes said.

Matthes specializes in night sky programming. Beginning at 9 p.m. in the Arches Visitor Center theater there will be a 30-minute presentation, followed by a 15-minute “constellation tour” outside in the parking lot. Matthes and rangers from all three parks will be present, sharing approximately seven telescopes for viewing the night sky until 11 p.m.

The park is open 24 hours a day and visitors are welcome to continue watching the Perseids meteor shower into the early morning hours when viewing is expected to be optimal, Matthes said.

“People can go stargazing wherever they want,” he said.

While there is no cost to attend the Star Party in the Park, entrance fees to the park will apply if visitors go beyond the Arches Visitor Center. Entrance to the park is $30 per vehicle, which is valid for seven days.

Rangers at the Star Party in the Park use laser pointers to guide people through the tour of the constellations, including the cluster of stars referred to as Perseids, and will instruct stargazers on where to look in the sky for the meteor showers.

Rangers will also share stories about the constellations.

“We often get a lot of people at the programs,” Matthes said. “It’s a great partnership and collaboration.”

The Star Party in the Park is among the most popular events hosted at the parks in the region, Dead Horse Point State Park Naturalist Scott Chandler said.

“Star parties are really fun when we get together with a large group of telescopes,” he said.

Those who are new to looking through a telescope will be able to get a good grasp of what they’re looking at, from easy-to-see objects to those that are more obscure, he said.

“It’s a good way to appreciate and learn about telescope viewing,” Chandler added.

Dead Horse Point State Park rangers will bring two of their telescopes to share during the Star Party in the Park. One telescope is optimal for viewing planets and brighter stars, Chandler said, while the other will penetrate deep space, allowing viewers to see galaxies and “fascinating star clusters.”

Southeastern Utah is known for its dark skies because of its distance from major metropolitan areas. Both Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park have been recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association as being International Dark Sky Parks. Arches National Park is currently working toward gaining that same designation.

Rangers recommend that visitors bring a chair, water, a red-tinted flashlight and warm clothes.

© 2018 Moab Sun News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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