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Arizona

Grand Canyon Star Party: Astronomy at the Edge of the Universe

Program No. 16157RJ
Turn down the lights and get ready to party! At the Grand Canyon Star Party, you’ll meet astronomers, have access to more than 40 high powered telescopes and explore Meteor Crater.
Length
6 days
Rating (4.33)
Activity Level
Starts at
1,479

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DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jun 13 - Jun 18, 2023
Starting at
1,479
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jun 13 - Jun 18, 2023
Starting at
1,849

At a Glance

Glance down and you will see some of the oldest exposed rocks from our planet. Glance up and you will behold the origin of our universe. Welcome to the Grand Canyon Star Party! Enjoy two nights of sky watching at one of Arizona's greatest astronomical events of the year as more than 40 telescopes are pointed at the skies above to behold the wonders of clear June skies.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Walking up to one mile over varied terrain. Elevations up to 7,000 feet.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • In Flagstaff, a center for astronomical study since the late 1800s, meet astronomers and discuss planetary geology, the origin of the universe, NASA projects and other current topics.
  • Visit Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was discovered, and Meteor Crater, the world's best-preserved meteorite impact site, that was used as a training ground for the Apollo astronauts.
  • At the Grand Canyon, learn about the geology of this world wonder and national treasure while enjoying walks to its most spectacular viewpoints.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Bryan Bates
Bryan Bates is an ex-officio member of the governing board for the International Society for Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture. Under a NASA grant, he created a course manual for archaeoastronomy and published research on a solar calendar at Wupatki and an equinox site near Stoneman Lake. He is involved in a research project on archaeoastronomy at Mesa Verde National Park and teaches archaeoastronomy, as well as biology, environmental science, natural history and chemistry.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Bryan Bates
Bryan Bates View biography
Bryan Bates is an ex-officio member of the governing board for the International Society for Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture. Under a NASA grant, he created a course manual for archaeoastronomy and published research on a solar calendar at Wupatki and an equinox site near Stoneman Lake. He is involved in a research project on archaeoastronomy at Mesa Verde National Park and teaches archaeoastronomy, as well as biology, environmental science, natural history and chemistry.
Profile Image of David Cole
David Cole View biography
David Cole has been on faculty at Northern Arizona University since 1996 and is a past recipient of the LOUIE Award for outstanding professor. Formerly assistant director of the NASA Space Grant on campus, he left that post to assume a Principal lecturer position that allows him to focus more on teaching physics and astronomy. He has three children, but none of them has expressed an interest to be an astronaut — yet.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Grand Canyon: A History of a Natural Wonder and National Park
by Don Lago
The Grand Canyon has long inspired deep emotions and responses. For the Native Americans who lived there, the canyon was home, full of sacred meanings. For the first European settlers to see it, the canyon drove them to great exploration adventures. Yet the canyon held an even deeper importance for America's pioneer conservationists such as Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, and Aldo Leopold, and it played a central role in the emerging environmental movement. Many vivid characters shaped the canyon's past. It's largest story is one of cultural history and changing American visions of the land. This book is a mixture of great story-telling, unlikely characters, and important ideas. It will appeal to anyone interested in gaining a broader understanding of the canyon.
Islands in the Sky: Bold New Ideas for Colonizing Space
by Schmidt, Stanley
"Let the meek inherit the earth—the rest of us are going to the stars! Here's how it's going to be done." — Robert Zubrin "These articles are not 'just science fiction.' They are things we can do—and with any luck at all, and vision and determination, we will." — Stanley Schmidt Take off on a thrilling journey of space exploration and speculation—to the realm where science fiction becomes science fact—as leading writers, researchers, and astronautic engineers describe a not-too-distant future of interstellar travel and colonization. From cable cars that ride "skyhooks" into space to rockets that can refuel out of Martian air, from "terraforming" planets (a process that makes them habitable for human life) to faster-than-light propulsion systems, Islands in the Sky offers an astonishing collection of challenging—and plausible—ideas and proposals from the pages of Analog magazine. Brilliant and provocative, here is fun-filled reading for everyone interested in science, technology, and the future. 276pp Biography: STANLEY SCHMIDT, Ph.D., is the Editor of Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact magazine, for which he has received 16 Hugo Award nominations. He is the author of four novels, including Lifeboat Earth and Newton and the Quasi-Apple, and is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Space Society.
Foundations of Astronomy
by Seeds, Michael A
New edition of a colorful textbook for introductory astronomy courses. It presents astronomy as a unified system of understanding that relates the student's personal experience to the basic processes in the universe. This edition includes new discoveries and hypotheses as well as the more gradual changes in understanding among astronomers concerning such things as black holes, dark matter, and the geology of Venus. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com) 736pp Biography: Mike Seeds is Professor, Emeritus of Astronomy at Franklin and Marshall College, where he has taught since 1970. His research interests have focused on peculiar variable stars and the automation of astronomical telescopes. He extended his research by serving as the principal astronomer in charge of the Phoenix 10, the first fully robotic telescope, located in southern Arizona.
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes
by Hawking, Stephen
Hawking's discovery that black holes emit particles caused great excitement among astronomers. In this succinct overview of current theories of the cosmos, the Cambridge University physicist modestly weaves in his own notable contributions while giving due credit to his colleagues. He explains why relativity implies that a "big bang'' occurred and examines string theory, which posits a universe of 10 or 26 dimensions. His understanding of time's flow leads him to conclude that intelligent beings can only exist during the expansion phase of our increasingly chaotic universe. New research on black holes and subatomic particles holds implications for scientists who, like Hawking, are attempting to devise a unified theory linking Einstein to quantum mechanics. The merit of this book is Hawking's ability to make these ideas graspable by the lay reader. Publisher's Weekly (April) 224pp
The Whole Shebang: A State-of-the-Universe(s)
by Timothy Ferris
From the prizewinning author who has been called "the greatest science writer in the world" comes this delightfully comprehensive and comprehensible report on how science today envisions the universe as a whole. Timothy Ferris provides a clear, elegantly written overview of current research and a forecast of where cosmological theory is likely to go in the twenty-first century. He explores the questions that have occurred to even casual readers — who are curious about nature on the largest scales: What does it mean to say that the universe is "expanding," or that space is "curved"? — and sheds light on the possibility that our universe is only one among many universes, each with its own physical laws and prospects for the emergence of life. 400pp
Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandries
by Tyson, Neil DeGrasse
What would it feel like if your spaceship were to venture too close to the black hole lurking at the center of the Milky Way? According to astrophysicist Tyson, director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium, size does matter when it comes to black holes, although the chances of your surviving the encounter aren't good in any case. Tyson takes readers on an exciting journey from Earth's hot springs, where extremophiles flourish in hellish conditions, to the frozen, desolate stretches of the Oort Cloud and the universe's farthest reaches, in both space and time. Tyson doesn't restrict his musings to astrophysics, but wanders into related fields like relativity and particle physics, which he explains just as clearly as he does Lagrangian points, where we someday may park interplanetary filling stations. He tackles popular myths (is the sun yellow?) and takes movie directors most notably James Cameron to task for spectacular goofs. In the last section the author gives his take on the hot subject of intelligent design. Readers of Natural History magazine will be familiar with many of the 42 essays collected here, while newcomers will profit from Tyson's witty and entertaining description of being pulled apart atom by atom into a black hole, and other, closer-to-earth, and cheerier, topics. 9 illus. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. 384pp
The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
by Greene, Brian
A new edition of the New York Times bestseller—now a three-part Nova special: a fascinating and thought-provoking journey through the mysteries of space, time, and matter. 464pp
The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet
by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
From Pluto's 1930 discovery to the emotional reaction worldwide to its demotion from planetary status, astrophysicist, science popularizer and Hayden Planetarium director deGrasse Tyson (Death by Black Hole) offers a lighthearted look at the planet. Astronomical calculations predicted the presence of a "mysterious and distant Planet X" decades before Clyde Tombaugh spotted it in 1930. DeGrasse Tyson speculates on why straw polls show Pluto to be the favorite planet of American elementary school students (for one, "Pluto sounds the most like a punch line to a hilarious joke"). But Pluto's rock and ice composition, backward rotation and problematic orbit raised suspicions. As the question of Pluto's nature was definitively relegated Pluto to the icy realm of Kuiper Belt Objects (cold, distant leftovers from the solar system's being debated by scientists, the newly constructed Rose Center for Earth and Space at the Hayden Planetarium quietly but formation), raising a firestorm. Astronomers discussed and argued and finally created an official definition of what makes a planet. This account, if a bit Tyson-centric, presents the medicine of hard science with a sugarcoating of lightness and humor. 35 color and 10 b&w illus. (Jan.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 194pp
The Theory of Everything
by Hawking, Stephen
Hawking takes readers on a fascinating journey through the telescopic lens of modern physics to gain a new glimpse of the universe--the nature of black holes, the space-time continuum, and new information about the origin of the universe. 132pp
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5 B 3 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Flagstaff, AZ
D
La Quinta Inn & Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m. Walking less than 1/2 mile roundtrip to dinner.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the meeting room to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation: 5:30 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. All field trips will be led by our Group Leaders, seasoned and experienced naturalists, unless specified otherwise. All classroom discussions will be led by experts in their fields. Transportation will be in either vans or a motorcoach, depending on group size. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: After walking to a local restaurant, we’ll have plated meals with access to the salad bar and a non-alcoholic beverage.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night's rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Universe Origins, Lowell Observatory, Cultural Astronomy
Flagstaff, AZ
B,L,D
La Quinta Inn & Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Walking approximately 1 mile throughout the day during group activities; periods of standing; mostly flat, paved sidewalks; elevation gain of about 100 feet. An additional elective walk of just over 1/2 mile will be available for those interested. Getting on/off vehicle; short drives within Flagstaff totaling approximately 8 miles for the day; about 1/2 hours, with stops for activities.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the breakfast buffet includes a variety of choices including waffles, hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruits, pastries, bagels, cereals, and muffins, plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After shuttling or walking to our classroom at Northern Arizona University, our morning presentation will be given by a university professor on our place in the universe. This lecture will provide an overview of the universe from its origins – Big Bang Theory – to how stars are born, the creation of our solar system, and current discoveries/thoughts on subjects such as dark matter, string theory, and more. We’ll then take a short walk to our lunch location.

Lunch: At the university dining facility on the south campus, we’ll enjoy a wide selection of hot and cold items including access to a salad and soup bar, as well as a variety of other choices, plus soft drinks, milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: Boarding our vehicles, we’ll then travel to Lowell Observatory for a walking history field trip led by a Lowell Observatory docent, during which we will see the 24-inch Clark Telescope that Percival Lowell used to study Mars, the Pluto Discovery Scope, the Rotunda, and the Exhibit Hall. Founded in 1894 by astronomer Percival Lowell, the observatory is one of the earliest built in the U.S.A. As such, and due to its reputation for firsts including, according to the Lowell Observatory’s website, “the first detection of the expanding nature of the universe, the discovery of Pluto, moon mapping for the Apollo program to the moon, the rings of Uranus…” – it holds a special place in both American and global history. The innovations have not ceased, however, evidenced by the impressive 4.3-meter Discovery Channel Telescope, which has been fully functioning since 2015.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have plated meals with salad and a non-alcoholic beverage; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: After making our way back to campus, we’ll gather for a classroom presentation by a professor emeritus of astronomy on Cultural Astronomy. What did the Ancestral Puebloans know about the sky, how did they know it, and how do we know that they knew it?

DAY
3
Meteor Crater, Amateur Scopes, Humans in Space
Flagstaff, AZ
B,L,D
La Quinta Inn & Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Driving approximately 45 miles one way to Meteor Crater; about 1.5 hours roundtrip. Walking approximately 1 mile along crater rim; about 1 hour; paved, slightly rolling trail.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll then travel to Meteor Crater, which is lauded as the first proven and best preserved meteor impact site on Earth. We’ll go on an expert-led walk along a portion of the crater’s 2.4 mile circumference, and view the crater from the accessible platform. At the onsite museum, we’ll also have opportunities to visualize the impact event through numerous interactive exhibits, a film recreation in the theater, and a display featuring the largest chunk found of the 150-foot meteor, which weighed several hundred thousand tons. Afterwards, we’ll return to Flagstaff in time for lunch.

Lunch: At the university’s south campus dining facility.

Afternoon: Following lunch, we’ll enjoy two presentations in our campus classroom by an astronomer. The first will be a discussion on objects visible in this week’s night sky. After a short break, we’ll settle in for another presentation, this time focused on amateur telescopes and astronomy.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have plated meals with salad and a non-alcoholic beverage; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Returning to the classroom on campus, we’ll settle in for a discussion with a university professor on humans in space, NASA, and the International Space Station.

DAY
4
Grand Canyon Geology, Desert View Watchtower, Star Party
Grand Canyon Village (S Rim)
B,L,D
Yavapai Lodge East

Activity note: Driving approximately 110 miles to Grand Canyon; about 2.5 hours, with stop along the way. Walking approximately 2 miles total throughout the day; several short walks at Grand Canyon viewpoints; walking and standing dependent on personal preference in the flat, paved parking lot/telescope viewing area at Mather Point after dark, some curbs.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Back on campus in our classroom, our Group Leader will give a presentation on the geology of the Grand Canyon. Following the presentation, we will board our vehicle and begin our journey to the Grand Canyon. En route, we’ll make our first stop for some time to stretch our legs and explore independently at the old Cameron Trading Post, set on the edge of the seasonally dry Little Colorado River at the western edge of the Navajo Reservation. A welcomed rest stop, the trading post features a beautiful hidden garden, an in-house Navajo rug weaver, and interesting stone architecture drawing from the various influences of the region.

Lunch: In the Cameron Trading Post dining room, we’ll have plated meals with one non-alcoholic beverage included.

Afternoon: Our next stop will be at the Desert View Overlook, the location of Mary Jane Colter’s famous Watchtower and some of the best views of the Colorado River. We will have time to explore the watchtower with our naturalist available to answer any questions. Known for her many works for the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railroad, Mary Jane Coulter was a female architect in the early 20th century and helped blend Spanish Colonial and Mission Revival architecture with Native American motifs. The Watchtower is an interpretation of a prehistoric “tower kiva’ with lavishly painted interior walls by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie. Back aboard the shuttle, we’ll then follow the eastern expanse of the South Rim enjoying occasional views of the Canyon. Late in the afternoon, we’ll check in to our lodge on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Dinner: In the lodge café, we’ll have plated meals with one non-alcoholic beverage included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: After dinner will be the first of our two nights of the Grand Canyon Star Party, which is co-sponsored by Grand Canyon National Park and the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA). To begin, you may choose to attend an astronomy presentation given by an expert in the visitor center auditorium. Alternatively, you may wish to go with our Group Leader on a walk to the rim of the Grand Canyon to watch the sun set. Once it is dark, we’ll stroll to the unlit parking lot of Mather Point on the South Rim where members of the TAAA and friends have set up 40-50 personal telescopes pointed at the skies above. Standing next to each telescope will be an amateur astronomer who is more than willing to share his/her passion. With the limited light pollution of the Grand Canyon, you will see more than you can imagine! You may also choose to attend one of several session where an astronomer uses a green laser to point out constellations to observers under revolving stars. Once you’ve had enough of the night sky, our Group Leader will be happy to shuttle you back to your room.

DAY
5
Grand Canyon History Walk, Star Party
Grand Canyon Village (S Rim)
B,D
Yavapai Lodge East

Activity note: Walking approximately 2 miles during group activities; on our feet for about 4 hours, with opportunities to rest. Walking approximately 1 mile at Grand Canyon Village; about 2 hours; paved, slightly sloping trail; elevation of approximately 7,000 feet with roughly 100 feet of elevation gain; walking and periods of standing up to 2 hours according to personal interest at Star Party.

Breakfast: At the Grand Canyon Lodge café, the breakfast buffet will feature a variety of choices including an egg dish, pancakes, breakfast meats, hot and cold cereals, and fresh fruit, plus juice, milk, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After breakfast, we will have a walking field trip in Grand Canyon Village where our Group Leader will tell us about the history of each location. Grand Canyon Village includes Verkamps Visitor Center, the El Tovar Hotel, Mary Jane Colter's Hopi House, rock walls and trails built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Bright Angel Lodge with its famous Geological Fireplace, and Kolb Studio.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: Free time. This time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You might like to explore the Grand Canyon’s famous South Rim, ride the free Hermit’s Rest Route (Red Line Shuttle), take extended walks along the rim, attend ranger programs, or return for longer visits at any of the historic structures seen on the history walk.

Dinner: In the lodge café, we’ll have plated meals with one non-alcoholic beverage included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Once again, everyone will be invited to choose between a walk to the rim of the Grand Canyon with our Group Leader to watch the sunset, or to attend an astronomy presentation given by an expert at the visitor center. Afterwards, we’ll make our way back to the Mather Point parking lot to enjoy looking through the variety of available telescopes, meet other astronomy enthusiasts, and gaze up at the brilliance of the Grand Canyon’s night sky. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
6
Return to Flagstaff, Program Concludes
Flagstaff, AZ
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 8:00 a.m. Driving approximately 90 miles to Flagstaff; about 1.5 hours. Expected arrival in Flagstaff at starting hotel by approximately 10:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After loading our luggage, we’ll gather for a brief program wrap-up session, then set out from the hotel for travel back to the program’s starting hotel in Flagstaff. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.