Night Sky Explorations at Lewis & Clark Caverns
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: August 30, 2019

Montana State Parks ( invites you to explore Montana’s night sky this Labor Day weekend with a special astronomy celebration at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park on August 30, 31 and September 1.

Join us at the park on Friday, August 30, starting at 8:30pm when Tom Satterly, Sheila Roberts and Craig Zaspel lead visitors on a tour of the night sky over the Caverns. The trio have shared the secrets of the night sky with hundreds of visitors to Lewis & Clark Caverns over the last decade; they never fail to bring their enthusiasm and telescopes.

Make this program an overnight experience! Camping in the group use area is available for $4 per person (Friday night only). Breakfast the next morning will be provided for those who register by 4:00pm on Saturday August 24th by calling the park at (406)-287-3541.

Tom Satterly is a retired member of the Environmental Sciences Department at the University of Montana—Western and is presently a storyteller. Sheila Roberts is a professor emerita of geology with the Environmental Sciences Department at UM-W and will help visitors to locate constellations and individual stars and planets using a planisphere. Craig Zaspel is a professor of physics with the Environmental Sciences Department at UM-W. He shares his understanding of the night sky from a physicist’s perspective.

On Saturday, August 31 at 8pm, journey back in time with AmeriCorps member Tamara Beal for “Stars: a Window into the Past.” Learn how the speed of light has affected our knowledge of the creation and expansion of the universe. This interpretive talk will take place at the outdoor campground amphitheater.

Tamara Beal originates from New York State. She has served with AmeriCorps in Iowa, New York, and now Montana, studying bats, geology, and caves. As a storyteller, she has always been fascinated with time travel and the phenomenon of light from distant stars offer an avenue for her to indulge her curiosity.

On Sunday, September 1, join Joe Witherspoon from Cottontail Planetarium for an evening filled with activities for all ages!

Evening events include:
5:30pm- Stomp Rockets: Make a rocket and later launch them into the air up to 100 yards!
7:30pm- Where the Planets Are: Create a to-scale model of the distances between planets and the sun.
8:30pm- Tour of the Night Sky: use telescopes to learn about the locations and specifics of other stars, planets and the moon in the night sky. Open telescope use to follow the conclusion of the program.

Joe Witherspoon was raised in Wyoming and has been interested in astronomy ever since he was 10 years old. He retired from the Army after 21 years of service. He bought his first telescope in 1992 and has been doing astronomy presentations and demonstrations ever since. After a long career of installing and repairing communications and navigations equipment on offshore oil platforms, ships and boats, Joe retired and moved to Montana where he built the Cottontail Observatory. He loves getting people of all ages excited about stars and the night sky.

Saturday and Sunday events are free and registration is not required. Non-Montana residents pay a $6/vehicle park entry fee.

For more information about these or other events at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, call (406) 287-3541.

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, 25 Lewis & Clark Caverns Rd, Whitehall, MT

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park features one of the most decorative limestone caverns in the Northwest filled with spectacular stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and helictites. The park also features camping, trails to hike or bike, a state-of-the-art visitor center, interpretive displays, a gift shop, food and beverage concessions, amphitheater, and interpretive events presented during the summer months.