Ironically, one of my most memorable moments on the rim of the Grand Canyon took place in total darkness. It was at the peak of the Leonid meteor shower several years ago. On an icy November night, perched on a cliff near Yaki Point, I saw meteorites streaking in every direction. Some fast, others slow. A few dragged luminous trails from horizon to horizon. It was breathtaking.
The South Rim’s combination of high elevation, low humidity, and limited “pollution” from manmade light sources provides for spectacular celestial viewing—as anyone who has visited Lowell Observatory in nearby Flagstaff would agree.
One group that takes full advantage of these fortuitous conditions is the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association. For the past sixteen years they have clustered in Grand Canyon National Park for their annual “Grand Canyon Star Party.” Free star programs are offered, and numerous telescopes are fixed on various galaxies, star clusters, planets and other heavenly bodies. Astronomers from across the country will be volunteering their expertise for this event.
This year’s event will take place June 17-24 in the developed area of both the North and South Rims with events taking place each evening. As always it is free to the public. Check the bulletin board at the Visitor Center for the schedule, or contact Park Naturalist Marker Marshall for more information at (928) 638-7830.