Summer Star Party Season Is Here!

Summer star party season has begun — grab your scope or binoculars, pack a sleeping bag, and come and join the fun!

Texas Star Party

Texas Star Party, upper field.
Ron Ronhaar and Todd Hargis

I moved to New England from Florida last August. Even if everybody warned me about Massachusetts winters — and even if I’ve lived in northern climes in the past — nothing quite prepared me for the nor’easters slingshotting one after the other into Cambridge, dumping more snow in one go than I’ve ever seen in a 24-hour period. (And I’ve lived in Finland.)

But just as surely as night follows day, so does summer follow winter (at least one hopes). As I breathe a sigh of relief, and revel in the fact that I can now get out on really clear nights and leave the house without piling on clothes, I still think to myself, wouldn’t it be nice if I could spend even more time looking at objects in the sky? And then I realize I can! I can go to a summer star party! They’re held all across the continent throughout the summer season.

What’s required to attend a star party? Well, not much, beyond enthusiasm (and bug spray, plenty of bug spray — but don’t get it on your equipment because it can destroy plastics). Have your own scope or binoculars? Bring them along.

Solar observing

Observing doesn't only happen at night. Solar scopes allow us to study our closest star.
Alan MacRobert / S&T

If you’re an expert observer, you probably know the drill. But you don’t have to be an expert, or even have much experience, to fully enjoy all that a star party has to offer. There are many experienced observers who are regular attendees, and you can scope-hop to learn about observing, equipment, and your fellow stargazers. Most star parties also offer daytime lectures or workshops on using or building telescopes, target selection, telescope alignment, et cetera.

Are you a member of a local astronomy club? Have you been to the regular observing nights most local clubs offer? You’re probably familiar with the setup: possibly a park, away from city lights, club members peering through their scopes, sharing oohs and aahs as they catch sight of a lovely object in their eyepiece. Observers wander from scope to scope, checking out what’s going on in other people’s eyepieces, discussing aperture, lenses, the weather, and the bugs. Extrapolate this scenario to maybe hundreds of people, maybe a national park of sorts, and extend this activity to several days, or even more than a week — and you’ve got yourself a star party.

Most star parties involve camping of some form or the other, either in your own tent, or in a cabin that you can reserve. Check what camping equipment you will need, if any, before you set out. The star party websites listed below have detailed information on accommodation and travel.

Table Mountain Star Party

Tents and RVs are occupied by astronomers at the Table Mountain Star Party.
S. N. Johnson-Roehr / S&T

Many on Sky & Telescope’s staff attend star parties, as do several contributing editors. S&T staff are more than happy to meet our readers, and have a chitchat. If you see one of us at a star party, come and say hello!

Below you will find a list of major star parties during the upcoming 2018 summer season. You can also check out Sky & Telescope’s list of annual star parties, and our Events Calendar for upcoming events.

North American Star Parties in 2018
Event Location Dates
Rocky Mountain Star Stare Gardner, CO June 13-17
Cherry Springs Star Party Coudersport, PA June 14-17
Golden State Star Party Bieber, CA July 11-15
Wisconsin Observers Weekend Hartman Creek State Park, WI July 12-15
Mount Kobau Star Party Osoyoos, BC (Canada) August 4-12
Nebraska Star Party Valentine, NE August 5-10
Table Mountain Star Party Oroville, WA August 7-11
Oregon Star Party Indian Trail Spring, OR August 7-12
Stellafane Convention Springfield, VT August 9-12
Starfest Ayton, ON (Canada) August 9-12
Summer Star Party Plainfield, MA August 10-19
Thebacha & Wood Buffalo Dark Sky Festival Fort Smith, NWT (Canada) August 23-26
Almost Heaven Star Party Spruce Knob, WV September 7-11
Acadia Night Sky Festival Bar Harbor, ME September 5-9
Black Forest Star Party Cherry Springs State Park, PA September 7-9
Connecticut Star Party Goshen, CT Septe,ber 7-9
Idaho Star Party Bruneau Dunes State Park, ID September 7-11
Almost Heaven Star Party Spruce Knob, WV September 7-11
Hidden Hollow Star Party Mansfield, OH October 4-8
Okie-Tex Star Party Kenton, OK October 6-14
Astronomy Day (autumn) Everywhere! October 13

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