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Now in Its 20th Year, AstroFest Brings 4 Nights of Stargazing and Astronomy Activities

by on July 10, 2018 12:12 PM

Penn State's annual AstroFest will offer four nights of free astronomy activities and stargazing coinciding with this week's Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

Now in its 20th year, AstroFest will take place from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with events in classrooms and the planetarium on the fifth floor of Davey Lab on Pollock Road.

Rooftop stargazing through the observatory telescopes will take place as weather permits. On clear nights, visitors will be able to see Saturn and its rings as well as Jupiter and its moons.

“This is a great year for observing the planets, which are some of the best targets for first-time telescope observers,” Jane Charlton, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State and the founding organizer of AstroFest, said in a release. "Visitors also find it amazing to see much more distant star clusters that are as far as 25,000 light years away.”

In front of the lab, attendees can experience walking across a simulated alien planet surface and watch sound waves converted to fire n a device called a Rubens’ tube. In the lobby, visitors can learn about NASA's Swift satellite observatory, which views gamma ray bursts, the most powerful explosions in the universe, and is controlled by Penn State.

Other demonstrations include a cloud chamber to learn about subatomic particles and the opportunity to "make your own comet." The "Finding Planets" lab offers a hands-on exploration of how astronomers have found planets beyond our solar system.

A variety of presentations will be given each night, with topics such as the space race, life in the universe and black holes. 

Kids can pick up an AstroFest activity passport and after receiving stamps on the passports for the activities they attend can collect science-themed prizes. Visitors of all ages also can take an astronomy quiz for a chance to win prizes.

Penn State astronomers, meanwhile, will be competing against each other for the audience vote as they give three-minute presentations on interesting concepts in astronomy.

“This year is our 20th year of presenting AstroFest,” Charlton said. “We are looking forward to having first-time visitors and participants who have been coming for years. We are as excited as we were for the very first AstroFest to share the wonders of the universe with everyone who attends.”

For more information visit or AstroFest on Facebook.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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