The College of the Canyons Canyon Country campus will host its bi-annual Star Party this May, with all community members invited to visit the campus and view the stars — along with Saturn, the moon and Mars.
The spring semester Star Party will take place from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, May 4, in the Canyon Country campus’ Carl A. Rasmussen Amphitheater. Admission is free of charge and open to the public.
During the event, attendees will have the opportunity to view the night sky — with particular emphasis on Saturn, Mars and the Earth’s moon — through one of several high-powered telescopes that will be pointed toward these celestial bodies.
“The elevated nature of our location, combined with the clear views we experience on a nightly basis, makes the Canyon Country campus a perfect venue for gazing at the moon, stars and planets,” said Dr. Dena Maloney, Vice President of the Canyon Country Campus and Economic Development.
Throughout the event, college faculty members will be joined by students from the COC Astronomy & Physics Club and other local astronomers to answer questions and provide audiences with additional background and interesting insights about our moon and the many awe-inspiring aspects and unique planetary makeup of Saturn and Mars.
To begin the evening, guest speaker Matt Wallace, Flight Systems Manager at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), will deliver a brief orientation lecture based on his experiences working with NASA’s Mars Exploration Program on the famed Mars rover project.
As the Flight System Manager for the Mars Science Laboratory project, Wallace and his team are responsible for overseeing the development of spacecraft systems for the next Mars rover, code named Curiosity, which launched from Kennedy Space Center in November 2011, and is expected to reach Mars on Aug. 5, 2012.
In addition, Wallace has made significant contributions to various other robotic planetary missions and three Mars rover missions, including management of the assembly, test and launch operations team for both the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. He also handled surface mission operations for the Opportunity rover, after it landed on Mars in 2004.
“We’re very excited to have someone with Mr. Wallace’s level of knowledge and in depth experience join us for what is sure to be a fascinating evening under the stars,” Maloney said.
Though some seating will be provided, Star Party attendees are encouraged to get to campus early with blankets, lawn chairs and picnic baskets, to enjoy a festive outdoor atmosphere as the sun begins to set and the night sky emerges.
Coffee, hot chocolate, pizza and other food items will be available for purchase at the event through Lamppost Pizza, operator of the Canyons Café on the Canyon Country campus. A portion of the concession sales from the Star Party are being donated to the Dr. Ram Manvi Memorial Scholarship to benefit students who are majoring in the fields of mathematics, science or engineering technology.
Dr. Manvi was the former Dean of Math, Science and Engineering at College of the Canyons and was instrumental in launching the campus’ initial Star Party event in 2009.
Want to learn more about Saturn, the moon and Mars? bring your friends and family to this unique, educational and fun-filled event!
For more information about the College of the Canyons Star Party, call the Canyon Country campus at 661-362-3801.