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Night sky

The fourth annual Sky and Star Party at Mount St. Helens will take place from 1 p.m. to midnight Saturday at the Coldwater Lake Science and Learning Center northwest of the volcano.

It will feature two expert talks, a 500-foot interactive model of the solar system and telescopes to view the sun during the day and other parts of the comos at night.

Star gazers will get to chat with experts and get telescopic "tours" of the galaxy during the night portion of the event. About 12 quality telescopes will be on hand for attendees to explore the heavens, according to organizers.

Speakers in the afternoon will be Howard Knytych, an astronomy instructor at Concordia University, who will speak of "things that fall from the sky," such as meteors; and Dawn Nilson, a representative of the International Dark Sky Association, which is working to curb urban "light pollution" that interferes with viewing the night sky. Her talk is dubbed "Dark Matters." Both are members of the Portland-based Rose City Astronomers.

During the daylight portion of the event, at least two telescopes equipped with special filters will be set up to allow safe viewing of the sun's solar flares.

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Attendees can interact with a 500-foot scale model of the solar system.

Coldwater Ridge is located at about 3,000 feet above sea level and is relatively free of artificial light, making it an ideal place for stargazing.

All people who plan to attend must register in advance through the web site of the Mount St. Helens Institute, www.mshinstitute.org. Tent sites, RV spots and indoor bunks can be reserved through the site. More information is available on the web site.

The event is sponsored by the Mount St. Helens Institute, Rose City Astronomers and the Cowlitz County-based Friends of Galileo astronomy club. 

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