The 3rd Annual New England Falll Astronomy Festival is set for Sept. 13-14 at the University of New Hampshire Observatory in Durham, N.H.  Award-winning author and playwright Dava Sobel will kick off the festival Friday evening, Sept. 13, 2013

Sobel, author of "The Planets," "Galileo's Daughter" and "Longitude," will deliver a free keynote lecture on the subject of her latest book and play, "A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos," at 7:15 p.m. on the grounds of the UNH Observatory on Spinney Lane, at the western edge of campus.

The festival, hosted by the UNH Physics Department in conjunction with the New Hampshire Astronomical Society and other astronomy clubs throughout the region, continues through the night of Sept. 14 with stargazing, astronomy-related activities, science talks geared toward the public and a raffle featuring several telescopes and a pair of Celestron Sky Scouts. The festival is free and open to all, with many activities designed for children and families.

"After all the amazing success and fun we've had with the festival the past two years, we couldn't stop," said event organizer and UNH Observatory manager Ian Cohen, a Ph.D. student in physics at UNH. "We're ecstatic to have Dava Sobel join us this year."

"The entire astronomical community from throughout New England drives this event, helping us introduce astronomy to families around the region," added John Gianforte, a UNH astronomy instructor, a lecturer at Granite State College and an organizer of the festival.

Sobel will sign books following her talk Friday night. Afterward, participants can stay to stargaze at the observatory and with telescopes provided by the region's dedicated amateur astronomers.

NEFAF gates open at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, for a day of family astronomy-related activities. Sobel will be on hand throughout the day, and UNH researchers and astronomy experts will discuss a range of astronomy topics of particular interest to young scientists. Activities include hands-on science, astronomy games, and building and launching model rockets. Participants can buy and create their own rockets from FlisKits. Stargazing will resume that night, and meals and snacks will be available for purchase both days.

Patrons can meet Sobel at a fund-raising reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Elliott Alumni Center on campus. Tickets are $50 each or $80 per couple, and include hors d'oeuvres, beer, wine and reserved seating for her talk. For tickets and information, visit

Date: Friday, 9/13/2013 - Saturday, 9/14/2013

Time: 7:15 PM - 5:00 PM

Location: University of New Hampshire Observatory, Spinney Lane, Durham, NH 03824

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