June is the month for astronomy at the Grand Canyon

Photo courtesy of NASA.

Grand Canyon, Ariz. – Two astronomy events will be celebrated in Grand Canyon National Park this June. On the afternoon of June 5, there will be public telescope viewing of a rare Transit of Venus at the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Then, from Saturday, June 16 through Saturday, June 23, the twenty-second annual Grand Canyon Star Party will be held on both the South and North Rims of the park.

Transit of Venus

On June 5, park rangers and astronomy volunteers will gather at 3 p.m. in front of the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, located on the South Rim, to view our sister planet, Venus, as it passes in front of the Sun. Telescopes, eclipse glasses, and projected images of the sun will be used to show park visitors this rare sight. After the Visitor Center closes at 6 p.m., public viewing will continue at nearby Mather Point. Visitors are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity as it will be the last chance to see Venus transit across the Sun until December 11, 2117.

Visitors are reminded that they should never look directly at the sun with the naked eye or through sunglasses, camera viewfinder, or any form of unfiltered magnification. Solar viewers may be available for sale at Grand Canyon Association bookstores in the park.

Star Party

The twenty-second annual Grand Canyon Star Party will be held from Saturday, June 16 through Saturday, June 23, 2012 on both the South and North Rims of the park. This event is sponsored by the National Park Service, the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association at the South Rim, and the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix  at the North Rim, with funding from Grand Canyon Association. Amateur astronomers from across the country will volunteer their telescopes and their expertise.

National parks are protective harbors for some of the last remaining dark skies in this country. During the Grand Canyon Star Party, numerous telescopes will be pointed at planets, star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies at night, and the sun by day, weather permitting. There will also be special slide programs each evening.

South Rim: The nightly slide show will begin at 8:10 p.m. in the Grand Canyon Visitor Center theatre and will be followed by free telescope viewing behind the building. Parking is available in lots 1 through 4, or visitors may take the free Village Route shuttle bus, which runs until 11 p.m. To guarantee a seat at the slide show, arrive early. Visitors may arrive at the telescopes any time after dark, but the best views are after 9 p.m., when the sky is darkest. On a clear night, telescope viewing continues well into the night. Visitors to the South Rim Star Party will need a flashlight for the walk to the viewing area, but are asked to keep flashlights pointed down to protect everyone’s night vision. A red flashlight is best, and can be made by covering any flashlight with red cellophane, nail polish, or magic marker.

North RimTelescopes will be set up on the porch of the Grand Canyon Lodge every evening. Check the Visitor Center and park bulletin boards for additional information regarding daytime and evening programs and viewing opportunities.

Nighttime temperatures on both rims can be quite cool, even in summer. Those attending the star parties are encouraged to bring warm layers of clothing.

For additional information on either of these events, check the park web site. For additional questions about the Transit of Venus or the South Rim Star Party, contact Marker Marshall at (928) 638-7830. For the North Rim Star Party, contact Robin Tellis at (928) 638-7739. For more on visiting Grand Canyon National Park, you can download park newspapers and a trip planner at the Grand Canyon National Park website.

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