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Nevada: Meet the Dark Rangers at Great Basin's Astronomy Festival

June 13, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Astronomy Festival attendees view the sun through solar-safe telescopes at Great Basin National Park in Nevada.
Astronomy Festival attendees view the sun through solar-safe telescopes… (Steve Moore )

ForgetSpider-Manor the Green Lantern. Get ready to meet the Dark Ranger.

Since the turn of the century, a band of National Park Service rangers have become self-avowed lovers and protectors of the amazing night sky. Whereas in L.A. we look up at night and see the twinkle of an occasional star (or is that a plane bound for LAX?), they look skyward and see the Milky Way.

"Dark Rangers are the sworn enemies of light pollution," Kevin Poe, a ranger at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, writes on his website. "Though they acknowledge that artificial light is a good thing (perhaps the greatest single accomplishment of our species), too much of a good things is a TERRIBLE thing."

The deal: Great Basin National Park claims some of the darkest night skies in the United States because the park's 77,000 acres are far away from any light-belching city. The park sits five miles west of Baker, Nev., 286 miles from Las Vegas and 234 miles from Salt Lake City.

This week the national park hosts a free Astronomy Festival with events from noon-9 p.m. daily. Highlights include afternoons spent viewing the sun by day with a solar telescope and kid-friendly workshops.

Nights are spent stargazing with the Dark Rangers and their friends from the Las Vegas and Salt Lake City Astronomical Societies, who set up telescopes and coach you on the galaxies and nebulae you're seeing. Other highlights include keynote speaker Paul Bogard, author of "Let There Be Night," at 8 p.m. Friday and a screening of the documentary "The City Dark" at 8 p.m. Saturday.

When: The festival runs Thursday-Saturday.

Details: Festival events are at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center [(775) 234-7517] on Nevada Highway 488. It's free to enter the park; developed campgrounds cost $6 each.

Contact: Great Basin National Park, (775) 234-7331

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