UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State's popular AstroFest program, a four-night festival of astronomy activities and stargazing, will welcome visitors for its 21st year from Wednesday through Saturday. The program will run from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. each night during the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.
AstroFest will offer visitors a variety of educational activities, demos and presentations sponsored by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Events are free and will occur rain or shine both in classrooms and in the planetarium located on the fifth floor of Davey Laboratory.
When visitors arrive on the doorstep of Davey Lab, the fun begins with the chance to walk on a simulated alien surface (often called “oobleck”), launch bottle rockets to the stars, and even see sound waves converted to heat and energy in a Ruben’s Tube and Tesla Coil.
Once in the lobby, kids of all ages can pick up their AstroFest Passport, which can be filled and returned at the end of the night for science-themed prizes like light-up putty and dinosaur excavations. Here, visitors also will have the chance to see cosmic rays pass through the Earth, leaving behind just a small trail in a cloud chamber, and can pick up an AstroFest T-shirt.
A short elevator ride later, kids can begin to fill out their AstroFest Passport on the second-floor skybridge.
“Designing and leading kids' activities is a chance to recreate some of my favorite learning experiences from childhood and give back to the community,” said Källan Berglund, the kid’s activity lead of AstroFest and graduate student in the Department of Physics. “It's wonderful to see the excitement and enthusiasm as the kids design their own planets, learn about the surface of the sun, or invent a new constellation.”
Adults will be equally entertained by the chance to create their own “Astrogami” of real cosmic images, take a short tour of the solar system and galaxy, or even test out the latest version of the Astro 1 video game: “The University of Mars.”
Featured presentations also will take place inside Davey Lab throughout the night. These presentations will educate visitors on a wide array of compelling astronomical subjects such as the first image of a black hole, the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the death of stars, and more. Visitors can even judge for themselves which subjects they find most interesting during “Astronomy Idol,” where Penn State astronomers will compete for audience interest during short three-minute presentations on a variety of topics.
Any AstroFest visit would not be complete without the popular final stop to enjoy star and planet gazing on clear nights. This year, visitors will be treated to the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter at night and sun spots during the day.
"When we first started AstroFest we hoped to have the opportunity to share our amazing universe with the public, but we could only have dreamed how big it would become 20 years later,” said Jane Charlton, professor of astronomy and astrophysics and the founding organizer of AstroFest. “We are excited like we were for the very first AstroFest to share the wonders of the universe with everyone who attends.“
For more information, visit www.astro.psu.edu/astrofest, "like" AstroFest on Facebook, or contact the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics by phone at 814-865-0418 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by email at [email protected].