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Observatory on the roof of Davey Lab

AstroFest 2023 offers four evenings of astronomy activities and stargazing

5 July 2023

Penn State’s popular AstroFest program, a four-night festival of astronomy activities and stargazing, will welcome visitors to Davey Lab from Wednesday, July 12, through Saturday, July 15. The program will run from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. each night during the 2023 Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

man points at image of galaxy while giving presentation
A variety of activities and talks for all ages will be offered during AstroFest.

AstroFest will offer visitors a variety of fun and educational activities for all ages, sponsored by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Events are free and will occur rain or shine both in classrooms and in the planetarium located on the fifth floor of Davey Laboratory. On clear nights, visitors will be able to use the rooftop observatory telescopes to see firsthand views of binary stars, star clusters, and maybe even another galaxy. In the lobby, kids of all ages can pick up their AstroFest program, which can be stamped at the demos and presentations and returned at the end of the night for science-themed prizes like light-up balls and plush planet toys. 

"We are excited to share all of the latest discoveries, including from the James Webb Space Telescope,” said Chris Palma, teaching professor of astronomy and astrophysics. Topics of more than 20 different featured presentations will range from life in the universe to discoveries of the first stars to gravity waves.

Special activities for kids will occur during the first half of the program each night, including the popular egg drop challenge, where kids—and adults—construct contraptions to protect their egg from a fall. Additional activities highlight the connections between astronomy and art, which have been explored since the very first AstroFest.

“I exhibited some of my astronomically themed art in 1999 when I was an undergraduate student,” said Nahks Tr’Ehnl, now an instructional technology specialist at Penn State. “Since then, it has been my goal to use illustrations and animations to reach large audiences with astronomy.”  

Tr’Ehnl will talk about astronomical art at AstroFest, and participants will have a chance to try the videogame used in the popular Astro 7N Artistic Universe class, taken by tens of thousands of Penn State students.

visitors look at the Davey rooftop telescopes
On clear nights, visitors to AstroFest can use the rooftop observatory telescopes to see firsthand views of binary stars, star clusters, and maybe even another galaxy.

The AstroFest T-shirt for 2023 reflects the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which successfully collided with the asteroid Dimorphus in Fall 2022. DART tested scientists' ability to change the course of an asteroid, which is an important step to help defend Earth from future impacts. Visitors can purchase an AstroFest T-shirt at Davey Lab during the event.


Members of the public are invited to come to Davey Lab to participate in the event.  Davey Lab is located across from the HUB-Robeson Center on the Penn State University Park Campus. 

“If you have trouble finding the building look up high in the air for bottle rockets launched by participants from the from porch of the lab,” said Tristan Rogers, a junior at the State College Area High School and a volunteer for AstroFest.

More information is available on the AstroFest website or by contacting the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics by phone at 814-865-0418 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or by email at