Bryce Canyon National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh invites you to join Bryce Canyon’s “Dark Rangers” on Tuesday, December 21, 2010, for an evening of programs and activities highlighting two significant astronomical events—both occurring simultaneously: Winter Solstice, and a total lunar eclipse! Says Bradybaugh, “Whether or not you’ve been to an astronomy show at Bryce Canyon before, it’s worth braving the cold for this one, because we won’t have a total lunar eclipse on the winter solstice for another 391 years!” Though total lunar eclipses can be seen about every 5 years in North America, the next one to happen on the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year and when Earth is closest to our Sun, won’t be until December 21, 2401!
Dark Ranger Joel Allen adds, “Full moons are so bright that usually they’re the enemy of stargazing. However, as the moon eclipses, you’ll get the best of both worlds—the romance of a full moon, and the starry splendor of an ultra-dark sky.”
The evening events begin at 5:30 p.m. with a full moon hike among the hoodoos led by Dark Ranger Kevin Poe. Attendance is capped at 30 participants, ages 6 and up. The hike is moderately-strenuous and will last about two hours. Stop by the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center (open daily, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) or call (435-834-4747) to reserve a spot on this hike. Hiking boots are required for all participants on moonlight hikes. Because hiking trails have patches of snow and ice, traction devices are highly recommended. Visitors may purchase traction devices at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center for $25, if they so desire.
The second event will be a pre-eclipse moon viewing through large telescopes on the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center patio. This will take place from 10:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Be sure to dress warmly as nighttime temperatures will dip well below freezing.
Beginning at 10:30 p.m. in the visitor center auditorium, Dark Rangers Joel Allen and Kevin Poe will present a one-hour multimedia program called, “All I Want for Solstice is Our Moon to Come Back!” In addition to explaining how eclipses work, this presentation highlights the science and mythology of how our Moon came to be, life’s dependence on our Moon, and human exploration of our lunar neighbor.
The grand finale of the evening will take place from 11:30 p.m. to 12:40 a.m. Visitors will be invited back to the large telescopes outside to view our “disappearing” Moon as it is slowly eclipsed by Earth’s shadow.
Head Dark Ranger Kevin Poe offers this suggestion: “Still looking for the perfect gift for that personwho has everything? Why not bring them to our Eclipse Extravaganza here at Bryce Canyon, the Last Grand Sanctuary of Natural Darkness!”
As Poe explains, “This will not be the only astronomy presentation Bryce Canyon offers during this holiday season - but it will be the best one!” The other three astronomy presentations will be Friday, December 24, Tuesday, December 28, and Friday, December 31. All three will be held at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center and all three will start at 7:00pm., followed by stargazing - weather permitting.
All events are free of charge, though the park entrance fee is $25.00 – good for up to a seven-day visit at Bryce Canyon National Park. National passes like the Interagency Annual Pass, Senior Pass, and Access Pass waive the entrance fee.
Be sure to dress warmly—with lots of layers—for these events. Free hot apple cider and cocoa will be provided for attendees of these events.
We hope to see you there!