“Aspen is built a little too close to heaven,” said philosopher Albert Schweitzer on his 1949 visit to the area. Take advantage of this fact during one of summer’s most fascinating, mind-expanding events at the top of Aspen Mountain on the evening of August 13. Stars Above Aspen, a collaboration between Aspen Snowmass and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), features an array of interactive presentations, activities, crafts and games for all ages to celebrate and learn about the celestial wonders of the night sky. From an elevation of over 11,000 feet — where, yes, the stars are brighter — you’ll experience the Starlab Portable Planetarium, powerful telescopes, legends of the constellations, a featured talk by a noted astronomer and educator, and more. So, what are some of the mysteries of the universe that will be probed at Stars Above Aspen? Here are just a few.
1. Why do we have seasons, and what does planetary motion have to do with it?
Find out during astronomer David Aguilar’s talk, “Fantastic Night of Planets.” Aguilar, who has an asteroid designated in his honor for his career-long contributions to astronomy and science education, specializes in communicating the sciences to all ages. Among other fascinating planetary tidbits, he will also divulge why four planets are in alignment in August.
2. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A METEOR, COMET, ASTEROID, AND SHOOTING STAR?
If you’ve ever been put on the spot by an inquisitive child, this is your opportunity to find out. Or perhaps, your child can explain it to you.
3. Who was Cassiopeia?
For various cultures around the world, constellations were used as the basis of fantastic myths and rich stories to explain the universe. How many stories of the 88 commonly accepted constellations do you know? Find out a few more to impress your friends the next time you’re sitting around the campfire. The younger set will be able to create their own constellations as part of one of several kids’ crafts and games.
4. Is there life out there beyond our planet?
It’s the quintessential question of mankind. With powerful telescopes and the most brilliant minds in the field, science has made huge strides recently in understanding the conditions that can support life on Mars and how to detect potential life beyond. Hear from scientists who know the latest.