Fairfax County Park Authority nature programs go beyond seeking out what’s in our forests to asking what is above us in the skies.
Observatory Park at Turner Farm is a specialized astronomy site. Park Authority programs there are partnerships with The Analemma Society, which fosters science education through astronomy. Observatory Park has an observation room that includes three telescopes under a retractable roof. There is an orientation room that houses educational programs with topics that range across the stars. They include telescope viewing, rainbows, sunrise and sunset phenomena, and meteorites. Astronomy classes and camps are held at the park. A classroom seminar and nighttime observing session focused on a specific astronomical topic is held monthly. Seminar topics have covered planets, comets, open clusters, double stars, stellar color spectrum, globular clusters, galaxies and nebulae.
Astronomy programs are also held at other park sites. Huntley Meadows occasionally holds astronomy classes on the park’s wetlands boardwalk. Riverbend Park stages a series of astronomy programs and festivals during winter months. Hidden Oaks Nature Center schedules night sky walks and campfire talks to discuss topics such as designs that ancient cultures saw in the night skies. Cub Run RECenter is located near one of the darkest spots in Fairfax County, and astronomy merit badges can be earned there.