Summertime visitors enjoy views of the stars at Lassen


LASSEN COUNTY, Calif. - Summertime visitors to Lassen Volcanic National Park are in for a treat the weekend of August 11.

The 6th annual Dark Sky Festival attracts people from all over the Western United States, plus locals like Hank Hansen and his daughter Mary, both of Oroville, who said they've been attending the festival since it started in 2012.

"Come to Lassen," Hansen said. "It's a gorgeous place; I love it."

Friday night, Hansen, whose hobby is photography, had his sights set on capturing the Milky Way.

"About an hour after sunset you should be able to see it quite well," he said.

Park Ranger Kevin Sweeney has been working at Lassen Volcanic National Park for nearly ten years, and said one of his favorite parts about the Dark Sky Festival is watching visitors realize they are seeing the Milky Way Galaxy for the first time.

"When you're out here long enough, stars actually start to have depth, and you can even make out colors," Sweeney said. "On a clear night, some people are like, 'boy, this would be really beautiful if it wasn't for that one cloud,' and then you say, 'that's not a cloud, that's actually the Milky Way.'"

Sweeney said the festival isn't just about what there is to see at night.

"We have programs set up throughout the weekend, day and night," he said, mentioning solar scopes as one of its daytime activities.

Plus, there are plenty of activities for kids such as the magic shows, junior ranger programs and an art and science fair.

Along with beautiful stargazing, the festival also offers educational resources, too.

Astrobiologists and researchers from institutes like NASA will share their knowledge with visitors and allow them to peak through telescopes set up at the Bumpass Hell Trail parking lot.

Derek Demeter, who is the Director of the Emil Buehler Planetarium at Seminole State College of Florida, said it's his second time visiting the park, but that this time, he's visiting as a keynote speaker for the festival.

Demeter explained that his talk will examine the connection between humanity and the universe above.

"It's for people to get a chance to understand the human element of the sky," he said. "No matter what race, religion, creed, whatever...we're all enthralled by the sky."

Demeter also mentioned that the Perseid Meteor Shower will coincide with the festival the weekend of August 11.

The Dark Sky Festival continues through Sunday, August 13. For more information, click here.

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