Moon Walk Hosts Star Party on Autumnal Equinox

 

Rapid City, SD — The Black Hills National Forest will hold its final Moon Walk program of the year with the start of the autumnal equinox. Celebrate the equinox with an astronomy night just south of Deerfield Reservoir on Saturday, September 23 at 7:00 p.m. This 3/4 mile round trip hike on a two track road with little elevation gain will take place on the south side of Hat Mountain.

Featured speaker Dr. Brianna Mount, Assistant Professor of Physics from Black Hills State University will discuss constellations visible in the September night sky. Participants will learn tricks to finding and identifying constellations such as Pegasus, Ursa Majora and Bootes as well as stars such as those in the Summer Triangle and Polaris. Two 8” telescopes will be set up and used during the presentation. These will be used to gain a closer look at galaxies and other items of interest in the fall sky. Many night sky objects can also been seen through binoculars, and a small amount will be available, but participants are also encouraged to bring their own!

Downloading mobile applications for smart phones helps visitors connect with the forest and understand the topic. The featured mobile app this month is called “Star Chart”. The app is free and it allows users to point their phones up at the night sky and easily identify constellations and stars.

“The new Black Hills National Forest mobile app allows visitors to learn more about the Forest,” says Amy Ballard, Moon Walk Coordinator. “Avenza maps is another free mobile app that has Motor Vehicle Use Maps. These maps are very helpful in finding your way around and are available for each district on the Black Hills National Forest,” says Ballard.

To reach the Moon Walk travel west 15 miles on the Deerfield Highway from the Hill City Exxon Station.  Turn left or south on Williams Draw Road (FSR691) and travel .8 miles to FS Trail 6071.  Turn right and travel south another .8 miles to the parking area that is located .1 mile past the interpretive sign.  Signs will be posted at major intersections to guide visitors to the parking area once you leave the Deerfield Highway. Wildlife and raptors are commonly seen along this route so give yourself enough time to enjoy the forest.  Visitors might also like to arrive a couple hours early and take a self-guided, cross country hike to the top of Hat Mountain for a panoramic view of the surrounding area.

Visitors are encouraged to bring flashlights, water, and bug repellant and dress for cooler evening temperatures.  Long pants and sturdy footwear (hiking boots or athletic shoes) are recommended for your comfort and safety while hiking on uneven terrain.

The program may be cancelled unexpectedly for unforeseen reasons such as lightning, high fire danger forecasts and other reasons beyond our control. The program will not be cancelled due to rain unless lightning is spotted.  Please arrive early to aid us in parking vehicles as over 125 visitors per walk have been attending the programs.

For further information on the Moon Walk, contact Amy Ballard, Program Coordinator, at (605) 343-1567.

For more information on the Black Hills National Forest, visit, http://www.fs.usda.gov/blackhills or call (605) 673-9200. 

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