The Night Sky Festival, Sept. 3-5, is split between activities at Sky's the Limit Observatory and Joshua Tree National Park.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY NIGHT SKY FESTIVAL
Dean Regas didn’t always know a lot about astronomy. Now the astronomer, author, and co-host of a weekly PBS show called Star Gazers will stop at nothing to share his passion about the night sky.
His “100 Things to See in the Night Sky: Stargazing 101” class highlights this year’s Night Sky Festival, set for Sept. 3-5 at Sky’s the Limit Observatory in Twentynine Palms with additional events at Joshua Tree National Park.
“It was really by accident that I started this job since I was working as a teacher and fell in love with it,” Regas recalls. After starting as a volunteer in 1998 at the Cincinnati Observatory, Regas was hired in 2000 as the outreach educator and charged with bringing astronomy programs to area schools.
He now delivers 150 astronomy talks a year, and the Star Gazers show is broken down to 1-and 5-minute segments covering astronomical occurrences people can view from their backyards.
“To me, seeing through a telescope for the first time is the No. 1 thing that gets people really excited and interested,” Regas says. “I loved seeing all the craters on the moon for the first time and it changed my life even as an adult since I didn’t have access to these telescopes as a kid.”
Regas hopes to attract people like himself that had little interest in astronomy before gazing through a telescope for the first time to the Night Sky Festival. “If nothing else, [the Night Sky Festival is] truly a vacation from reality to get out here under the night sky,” he adds.
The event seeks to attract more night sky lovers who “are moved to want to protect these skies when they see them in their true nature for the first time,” says Lori Rennie, a Night Sky Festival representative working on the project.
This year attendees will be able to converse with Regas during his Stargazing 101 talk Sept. 4, which will include a signing of his latest book, 100 Things to See in the Night Sky: Stargazing 101. Other activities during the event will have visitors engaging in a variety of talks and workshops including an arrow and leather pouch workshop, a night sky astrophotography workshop, and a night sky painting photography workshop.
Additional interactive activities on Sept. 4 include a guided tour around the Orrery, which is a scale model of the solar system that is accessible to walk around and through and is included in the Saturday Star Pass. In the afternoon, visitors can listen to astronomy lessons led Ashley Pipkin, a biologist for the National Park Service, and Keri Bean, a systems engineer at NASA.
For younger attendees, there will be a Rock Scrambling Hike through the Chasm of Doom on Sept. 5, which is available for all guests past age 12 and takes place at multiple times. They can also pan for gold that afternoon.
To ensure guest safety and comfort, the Night Sky Festival will require social distancing and mask usage indoors and in transport vehicles.