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See the stars like never before at Shenandoah’s Night Sky Festival

The Milky Way illluminates the night sky above Shenandoah National Park. The park is hosting the Night Sky Festival July 29-July 31. (Photo courtesy Greg Redfern)

WASHINGTON — Tired of the heat, DMV? Want to get away to cool breezes, lush greenery and star-filled skies? Shenandoah National Park is your answer with an added bonus — the Night Sky Festival.

Through Sunday night, the park will be hosting presentations, telescopes, activities and even an astronaut. Family friendly with astronomy stuff for all ages, the Night Sky Festival takes place rain or shine. Most of the events are free.

The Night Sky Festival’s schedule of events can be downloaded here so you can take it with you to the park and plan your outing. Rooms can be booked, and there are places to eat to facilitate your stay.

This is the centennial of the National Park Service. National parks across the country are dark-sky resources that Americans can visit to see the sky as perhaps they have never seen it before.

Due to light pollution, 80 percent of Americans cannot see the Milky Way Galaxy, our home galaxy. At Shenandoah National Park, especially this time of year, the Milky Way is a celestial splendor that can be seen sprawling across the sky from the South to the North. Many guests to the park have never seen it, and some are moved to tears when they view the milky band for the first time.

If the weather cooperates, there will be telescopes available for festivalgoers to see our star, the sun, during selected days with properly filtered telescopes. On specified nights telescopes will be available to see planets, deep sky objects and the stars. If it is cloudy, the telescopes will not utilized.

I hope you will join me and park staff at the Night Sky Festival. The park’s astronomy events continue throughout the season if you get the astronomy bug during the Festival. See you there!

Follow me on Twitter @skyguyinva and my daily blog to keep up with the latest news in astronomy and space exploration. You can email me at skyguyinva@gmail.com.

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