CENTRE COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ) – Penn State’s AstroFest launches four nights of astronomy and stargazing next week.
People of all ages are invited to Davey Laboratory on Wednesday, July 13, through Saturday, July 16. The program will run from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. each night after the 2022 Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.
AstroFest offers a variety of free, rain or shine educational activities in the planetarium located on the fifth floor of Davey Lab. On clear nights, visitors can use the rooftop observatory telescopes to discover views of binary stars, star clusters, and the craters on the full moon.
“There’s a lot of scary things that are going on in the world,” said Jane Charlton, professor of astronomy and astrophysics, who was one of the founders of AstroFest in 1999. “This is something that helps people pause and look beyond.”
In the lobby, children can pick up their AstroFest Passport, which can be stamped at the demonstrations and presentations and returned at the end of the night for science-themed prizes like light-up tops and dinosaur excavations.
“I’m looking forward to some of the young kids that haven’t really had a chance to come in-person to AstroFest, to be able to have that opportunity,” said Charlton. “We’ve had situations where some of those kids have grown up and majored in astronomy here at Penn State.”
The AstroFest presentations cover a new topic each night.
“We are especially excited about our featured presentations this year,” said Charlton. “We will have topics ranging from the mind-blowing size of the universe to cosmic explosions to planets, planets everywhere.”
3D and planetarium shows will also return.
“After two years of purely online outreach events, it’s so exciting to bring programs like AstroFest back to campus,” Tim Gleason, director of the Eberly College of Science’s Office of Science Outreach said in a statement. “There’s nothing quite like seeing the planets or experiencing the planetarium with your own eyes.”
There also will be a virtual AstroFest lobby with online activities and some live broadcasts. The virtual lobby for AstroFest is already available online!
The AstroFest T-shirt for 2022 is inspired by the James Webb Space Telescope, which launched in 2021. The shirt can be purchased during the event.