The rings of Neptune, as seen by the Webb telescope. Courtesy of NASA.

The National Park Service will host a special free program “Wonders from Webb” about NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope on Sept. 30 at the Blue Ridge Music Center near Galax and on Oct. 1 at the Peaks of Otter.

The Webb telescope, sometimes called JWST, is an orbiting infrared observatory that will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, with longer wavelength coverage and greatly improved sensitivity. The longer wavelengths enable Webb to look much closer to the beginning of time and to hunt for the unobserved formation of the first galaxies, as well as to look inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today. The telescope’s first images were released on July 12.

Blue Ridge Music Center, Sept. 30, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

To start the event, Corrie Ann Delgado, a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Solar System Ambassador, will share images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope in the indoor amphitheater. At 8 p.m., a national park ranger will lead a walk in the dark and share how to navigate the night sky. The Echo Ridge Astronomical Society will provide telescopes for attendees to take a closer look at celestial objects. Visitors can also view a meteor and a piece of a moon rock. 

Attendees are encouraged to bring a flashlight and dress in layers for the cool mountain weather. All ages are welcome.

Peaks of Otter, Oct. 1, 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Peaks of Otter Visitor Center amphitheater

To start the event, a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Solar System Ambassador will share images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. At 8:30 p.m., a park service ranger will lead the 30-minute presentation, “Magnificent Moon,” in celebration of International Observe the Moon Night. The talk will highlight the lore and science behind Earth’s largest natural satellite.  From 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., visitors can enjoy stargazing with telescopes set up in front of the Visitor Center. 

Attendees are encouraged to bring a flashlight and dress in layers for the cool mountain weather. All ages are welcome. In the event of rain, the event will take place from 7 to 9:30 p.m., Sunday, October 2. 

Both events are presented in partnership with NASA, Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Belk Observatory at the Claytor Nature Center of the University of Lynchburg, Blue Ridge Astronomy Club, and Echo Ridge Astronomical Society.