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February 11, 2014 | by Dan McKernan

The skies above Big Bear Lake take center stage at the inaugural StarLight Festival. The free event organized by AstronomyOutreach network takes place in Big Bear Village Saturday, May 24 and Sunday, May 25, 2014. It's a cosmic festival for all ages that combines science and astronomy with art and music to create a fun atmosphere that is both educational and entertaining. Some of the highlights of the event include guest speakers and panelists from NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), lectures about current space programs, opportunities to tour the Big Bear Solar Observatory, "sidewalk" astronomers, STEM educational activities, major manufacturers display the latest and greatest scientific equipment, intergalactic-style art exhibits, live music, and thousands of dollars in door prizes.

"Astronomy is the root of all science, and we're on a mission to give the public an opportunity to experience it firsthand," said Scott Roberts, Founder and Director of AstronomyOutreach network. "Space and our instinct to explore is what unify the human race, one people one sky. We're excited to have our festival in Big Bear too, because it really is the ideal place to learn about the cosmos." 

Some main reasons why AstronomyOutreach network chose Big Bear for the site of the StarLight Festival is because of its high altitude and relatively dark skies unspoiled by city lights. In fact, Comet Machholz 1985e was discovered in Big Bear during an astronomy event in 1985. Big Bear's environment also plays an important role for studying the sun, hence the Big Bear Solar Observatory.

A key highlight of the StarLight Festival is attendees have a chance to tour the Big Bear Solar Observatory. This marks the first time since 2005 that the New Jersey Institute of Technology, which operates the Big Bear Solar Observatory, will allow public tours of the observatory. Tours are exclusive for StarLight Festival attendees only, which are awarded through random raffle drawings at the event. A tour schedule will be posted at a later date.

Some of the top keynote speakers at the StarLight Festival include Dr. Story Musgrave, a United States Hall of Fame Astronaut who flew in six space shuttle missions in the 80s and 90s; Dr. Seth Shostak, a Senior Astronomer at SETI Institute and Chairman of the International Academy of Astronautics who is best known for his work analyzing radio signals for extraterrestrial intelligence; Dr. Linda Spilker, JPL Scientist who is best known for her work with the Cassini Mission of Saturn, and is considered the most knowledgeable in her field regarding Saturn’s rings. Other speakers at the StarLight Festival include Rob Manning, JPL Chief Engineer of the Mars Pathfinder flight system; Dr. David Steinfeld, JPL scientist of the Curiosity Rover Mission to Mars; Dr. David Levy, a renowned comet discoverer; Mike Simmons, Executive Director of Astronomers Without Borders; and Dr. Stephen J. Edberg, Project Scientist for the NASA/JPL Space Interferometry Mission.

Attendees will have the chance to mingle with "sidewalk" astronomers and look at the night sky through their telescopes. A number of art exhibits on display include detailed paintings of space scenes, unique photography of "the world at night" and images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. A variety of musicians provide ambient music throughout the festival. Some of the musicians play eccentric instruments that create "out of this world" music.

In addition to the StarLight Festival is a similar event called RTMC Astronomy Expo that takes place at YMCA Camp Oakes in Lake Williams (11 miles east of Big Bear Village) May 22 – May 26. RTMC Astronomy Expo, now in its 46th year is geared toward all aspects of amateur astronomy. It gives attendees an opportunity to look through a large variety of telescopes, attend talks by professional and amateur astronomers on different aspects of telescope construction and use, and purchase astronomical equipment and software at the Expo’s swap meet.

The StarLight Festival is Saturday, May 24 from 10 a.m. to 12 midnight and Sunday, May 25 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Big Bear Village. Lectures and panel discussions are held at The Cave and Northwoods Resort. Admission to the StarLight Festival is Free. RTMC Astronomy Expo is from Thursday, May 22 to Monday, May 26. Admission to RTMC Astronomy Expo is $25 for adults, $12 for kids ages 5-13, and kids under five are Free. For details about the StarLight Festival including a schedule of events visit For more info about RTMC Astronomy Expo visit For all there is to see and do in Big Bear, make lodging reservations or request a free Visitors Guide log on to or call 800-424-4232.

February 11, 2014

News tag(s) { Families/Children Special Events Educational }

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