AstroFest 2018

Davey Lab, Penn State University Park Campus

Penn State’s AstroFest program, a four-night festival of astronomy activities and stargazing during the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, will welcome visitors from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. each night from July 11-14. All ages are welcome to participate in a variety of exciting and educational activities sponsored by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Events are free and will occur rain or shine in classrooms and in the planetarium located on the fifth floor of Davey Laboratory on the Penn State University Park campus.

On clear nights, visitors will be treated to views of Saturn and Jupiter through telescopes at the Davey Laboratory rooftop observatory. Outside, visitors can walk on a simulated gooey alien planet surface called "oobleck" without getting their feet wet, and see flames dance in a Rubens’ Tube. In the lobby, visitors can learn about NASA's Swift satellite, which views the most powerful explosions in the universe and is controlled by Penn State. Visitors with an artistic side can design Astrogami postcards based on astronomical images.

Featured presentations vary nightly, with subjects ranging from galaxies, to black holes, to life in the universe, and the space race. AstroFest also includes the astronomer's version of "American Idol," where Penn State astronomers compete for the audience vote by giving three-minute presentations about interesting concepts in astronomy.

Other demonstrations include the cloud chamber, where visitors learn about sub-atomic particles, and the chance to "make your own comet." The popular "Finding Planets" lab provides a hands-on exploration of how astronomers have found more than a thousand planets beyond our solar system. Five-minute tours of a scale model of the solar system also are available.

Kids may keep an AstroFest "activity passport" — a stamped record of completed activities and visits to different demonstrations, which they can turn in for a prize at the end of the evening. At the "Astronomy Q&A" booth, both adults and youngsters can answer astronomy questions to win astronomy posters, lithographs and bookmarks.

Find more information at, "like" AstroFest on Facebook, or contact the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics by phone at 814-865-0418 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by email at