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What it's like to stargaze in Glacier National Park


And now to the cool peaks of Montana in Glacier National Park, where locals and tourists gathered at the top of a 6,000-foot pass for a stargazing party, enjoying some of the darkest skies in the U.S. Montana Public Radio's Aaron Bolton reports from Logan Pass.

AARON BOLTON, BYLINE: It's 10 p.m. in the parking lot at the Logan Pass Visitor Center. Moonlit mountain peaks loom nearby as park rangers hand out glow sticks and maps of constellations.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Here is a star chart for you.

BOLTON: This is the park's first star party since the pandemic hit in 2019. One of the volunteer local astronomers is helping Raymond Croff from the nearby Blackfeet Indian Reservation take a peek through the eyepiece of a telescope. The view is mind blowing.

RAYMOND CROFF: I can see Saturn. Yeah, look. Oh, yeah, I can see going into the ring.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yeah, they're about 170,000 miles wide.

CROFF: Holy - man.

BOLTON: Nearby astronomer Doug Lively's telescope is hooked up to a large computer screen. He interprets what's on it for partygoers, who are looking at the tentacles of a brightly lit galaxy.

DOUG LIVELY: When we're actually looking for life, that's not a good place to go because when we look at the core, the core has got a lot of radiation. When we look out here, it's very cold. There's not a lot going on out here.

BOLTON: The event educates people about the far reaches of space. But Glacier is the traditional homeland of the Blackfeet nation. Tribal member Darnell Rides At The Door uses a laser to point out the seven stars of the Big Dipper, which are also painted on the flap of a traditional Blackfeet lodge next to her.

DARNELL RIDES AT THE DOOR: They are the sons of the moon, Komorkis (ph), which - you see him just going down back here and the sun - Creator Sun, Ndpiu (ph). And those seven brothers each had a power. And they helped create the very Earth you're standing on - these mountains, the water, the trees, the dirt, that wind that you feel, the air and much, much more.

BOLTON: Partygoers get a whole new perspective on the Big Dipper as Rides At The Door explains how these stars guided her people through these very mountains centuries ago. Local residents Zowie Caouette and Joseph Carlson say their first star party was everything they could have hoped for and more.

ZOWIE CAOUETTE: It's really incredible, you know, to be able to see the stars so clear in a place that really doesn't have too much light pollution. So...

JOSEPH CARLSON: Well, they do say half the park is after dark.

BOLTON: For NPR News, I'm Aaron Bolton in Glacier National Park.

(SOUNDBITE OF TAMIA SONG, "BEAUTIFUL SURPRISE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.