Environmental Education Center celebrates astronomy during Star Party Week starting Nov. 30

Nov. 23, 2020
Chandler Solar System Walk at Veterans Oasis Park

Visit the Chandler Environmental Education Center (EEC) for Star Party Week, Nov. 30 through Dec. 5, to explore the science of astronomy and learn more about our amazing solar system. The EEC is located in Veterans Oasis Park, on the northeast corner of Lindsay and Chandler Heights roads.

Star Party Week is presented by the Chandler Parks and Recreation divisions and in partnership with the East Valley Astronomy Club (EVAC). Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 protocols, nighttime telescope viewing will not be available this year. However, this year’s family-friendly event features free goodie bags available inside the EEC to the first 250 young guests during the week.

The Star Party bags are filled with solar system crafts and activities for kids to take home, including materials to build an air powered rocket ship, a constellation projection light and balloons to help demonstrate how the moon orbits the Earth and how both orbit the sun. Star Party activity bags can be picked up in the EEC lobby during regular hours of operation, which are: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday; and closed on Sundays.

Additionally, park visitors can step outside the EEC and take a leisurely walk around the park’s lake while following the Chandler Solar System Walk along the way. The self-guided Solar System Walk is a series of stone monuments and interpretive signs representing the sun, eight planets and other significant objects in our solar system. The signs are placed along the 2,500-foot pathway that surrounds the lake at distances that are relative to the scale of the solar system. Every foot traveled on the pathway represents 1.5 million miles in space. For example, while 93 million miles separates the earth from the sun, the actual distance within the park is 62 feet.

The signs include information about the creation of the solar system, planets, moons, asteroids, dwarf planets, and outer solar system objects such as comets. There are also references to the ancient cultures that first studied the night sky and the mythologies they created about the stars that make up constellations. Park visitors are invited to ask the EEC staff for a self-guided tour brochure, which includes a map, before taking the walk.

“The Solar System Walk is both fun and educational, for all ages, with a mix of science, mythology and history that make the signs interesting no matter what age you are,” said Recreation Coordinator Dexter Belling. “You can use your imagination to gain some perspective on how far all the other planets are from Earth and each other, all while you enjoy a nice walk around the lake. It is good for the mind and body. Plus, it’s free!” 

Dedicated in 2012, the Chandler Solar System Walk was designed by Chandler residents and funded entirely by private donations through a partnership between the Howard Israel family, the City and EVAC. It is an amenity that is generally unknown to most residents of Chandler, yet it is considered a “hidden gem” by those who use the park on a regular basis, including parents who homeschool their children and teachers who bring classes to the park on field trips.

“Chandler is very lucky to have the Solar System Walk at Veterans Oasis Park. In fact, every community should have one,” says David Portree, an astronomy enthusiast and volunteer at the EEC who gives guided tours of the Solar System Walk every month. “A scale-model of the solar systems brings astronomy and space down to Earth and helps give us a new perspective on the universe. It can be explored any time by anyone, and unlike observational astronomy with a telescope, it’s totally impervious to light pollution, smog and cloudy conditions.”

Find more information online at chandleraz.gov/eec, or by calling 480-782-2895.