Astronomy is an engrossing and fulfilling hobby that can bestow you, your family, and friends loads of fun. It’s for everyone who yearns to feed their wonder about the night sky, gaze upon beautiful sights high above, or witness spectacular events like eclipses or meteor showers that will provide a new sense of perspective about our vast universe.
Attending a star party is one of the best activities to give such an incredible experience. Star parties are one- to multi-day events that bring people together to showcase their interest and love for stargazing. It takes place in national monuments, state parks, observatories, and even in a simple backyard during nights with clear skies and minimal light pollution, allowing everyone to see and learn more about the prodigious planets, glimmering star clusters, and distant galaxies.
Here, let’s explore the top places and events where you can attend a stargazing party, scan the beautiful night skies, and enjoy the wonders of heaven!
Truth to be told, you don’t have to go far to enjoy a stargazing party as you can start at your own or your friend or family’s backyard! Just look for a site that offers a wide view of the sky without obstructions like electrical posts or tall buildings and minimize unnecessary nighttime lighting to get the best views.
Once you’ve found a good location, gather binoculars and telescopes, add decorations to make the place more appealing, and prepare popcorn and a lot of snacks. Invite everyone to be at your selected site before it gets dark. That way, it will be like a theater play or a movie where you all anticipate the start.
When the night falls, be filled with awe with the amazing array of objects you can see above, from the stars to the moon, artificial satellites, comets, meteor showers, or if you’re lucky, a bonus would be the magical, enchanting northern lights.
Winter Star Party
Established in 1984, Winter Star Party (also known as WSP) is a yearly event where amateur astronomers gather together and engage in nighttime astronomical observation. It is usually held during the new moon in February, happening during mid-winter in Florida Keys amidst the peak of the tourist season.
Boasting steadied dark skies and warm weather, it entices participants not only in the United States but also from Europe and Canada. Some other activities you can enjoy include sharing astro-imaging techniques, observing ideas, and new developments about the hobby. Southern Cross Astronomical Society of Miami, Florida, hosts the annual convention, which also ranks among the top 10 star parties in the world.
Grand Canyon Star Party
The Grand Canyon Star Party (GSCP) is an eight-day event held every June each year at the national park’s South Rim. People gather to explore the dark Arizona skies and get spectacular views of nebulae, galaxies, stars, and the planet Saturn. What’s great is that you don’t have to bring any equipment as free telescope viewing is offered nightly. If you want to learn more about the universe, you’ll love the astronomy programs also held every night.
All ages are invited, making it an excellent vacation for singles, families, friends, and seniors. Just make sure to reserve a campsite or room, or plan other arrangements early. Plus, dress in warm clothes as the temperature plunges quickly after the sunset. All you’re bound to here is heaps of fun, amazing sights, and astronomy education – simply a perfection!
Cherry Springs Star Party
Renowned for its nice dark skies, Cherry Springs State Park has its own star party, held twice a year in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. In 2000, DCNR dedicated Cherry Springs as the state’s first dark sky park. Six years later, the closure of the Cherry Springs Airport led to the addition of its land to the park’s stargazing area. The following year, it was designated as an International Dark Sky Park, having one of the best optimum conditions for stargazing.
Join the event, meet hundreds of astronomy enthusiasts, watch and snap photos of the night sky together, hear experts tackle astronomical topics, and see astronomical merchandise and supplies. Adding the picnic and rustic camping facilities and trails for snowmobiling, mountain biking, and hiking – be ready for an all-around memorable experience.
LAS Autumn Equinox Star Party
The UK doesn’t miss out on the fun as they dedicate an entire week annually for dark sky observation in the LAS Autumn Equinox Star Party, the largest star party in the country. Held at Kelling Heath on the North Norfolk coast, the yearly event has three fields devoted to stargazing enthusiasts. A strict ‘no lights policy’ is implemented to shield extra light as much as possible and allow the sky to be the only natural resource. All that is left is the brilliant dark sky, which the amateur astronomers observe and take photos of while relaxing and exchanging ideas with their family and friends.
Southern Skies Star Party
People from Bolivia also spend one whole week watching the beautiful night skies at the Southern Skies Star Party (SSSP), held yearly near La Paz, Bolivia, on Lake Titicaca’s stunning shores. Founded in 1996, the event offers some of the best viewing conditions on Earth due to its high altitude. It sits at an elevation of 12,500 feet (3810 meters), almost as high as Hawaii’s Mauna Kea Observatory. Apart from the glorious views, the observation site is just a few steps away from the calm lake and the hotel. A great variety of day trips is also available, offering you and your colleagues the utmost enjoyment.
Oregon Star Party
Founded in 1987, the Oregon Star Party (OSP) is ranked among the top yearly events in the U.S. for observational astronomy. It is usually held in August or September in the Ochoco National Forest, near Oregon’s geographical center. For over three decades, the 4-day event has bestowed amateur astronomers and families with wonderful skies, low humidity, and warm and friendly ambiance from all the participants. Don’t fret if you don’t have a telescope, as they’d be happy to share one with you. So, be there and experience one of the country’s darkest and largest star parties!
Are you done seeing Hollywood, stopping by the Getty Center, or exploring the Petersen Automotive Museum? Perhaps, you’re looking for something else to do in LA? If that’s the case, visiting the Griffith Observatory and attending one of its star parties is your best bet.
Once a month, a public star party is held from 2:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m on the observatory’s open lawns. Here, you and your family can get the chance to try out different telescopes and look at the Sun, Moon, visible planets, and the clusters of stars. Partnering with different local telescope groups, they also hold talks where you can gain more knowledge about their equipment and the sky. Note that the public star parties are free, so there’s no reason for you not to attend and observe the cosmos.
Indeed, star parties are an excellent way to enjoy the glorious views of the night sky. Yet, this affair isn’t only bounded by that, as you get to be surrounded by other people sharing the same interest, widen your knowledge through the talks and classes, and grow your love for the subject. Throw out or seek out a stargazing party near you, whether in a backyard or an observatory and relish the amazing experience.