Star Parties

Star Parties are a great opportunity to meet other astronomers and hopefully (weather permitting!), do some observing under darker skies than most of us have to put up with at home.

Many events have organised talks from professional astronomers, authors, etc and vendors are often there to show off the latest in telescopes and essential accessories

I thoroughly recommend that beginners and experienced amateurs alike attend one of the larger star parties at least once. It’s the best chance you’ll ever have of seeing a big range of equipment and people who are using it. If you’re not into camping then just visit for a day and evening.

Below are a few comments on the Star Parties I have so far been able to attend.....

In the UK

TheEquinox Sky Campis the largest Star Party held in the UK. Formerly staged at Thetford, it is now runs twice a year at Kelling Heath Holiday Park on the North coast of Norfolk. Skies are quite dark, facilities excellent but weather can be variable! It’s not all astronomy too - the photo top left is some of the ladies have a very civilised tea and cake party!

TheKielder Forest Star Campis held at a truly dark site just south of the England/Scotland border. A good campsite (if its not raining!) with adequate facilities.

TheObservatory Science Centrehas run an Astronomy Festival for the last few years. Camping is basic and the skies are not very dark, but the opportunity to observe in the hallowed grounds of the old Royal Greenwich Observatory plus look through some fine old instruments is unique.

USA Star Parties

I was in LA one week on business and discovered the small town of Yucca Valley was holding a Starry Nights Festival that weekend. It’s a great event but mainly for locals. My visit was notable for a 7.1 earthquake in the middle of the night!

The Texas Star Party has got to be one of the greatest and most famous of its kind. High up in the Davis Mountains far away from lights it is a good event, not just for the skies but for the people, the locality and the talks. They attract some remarkable evening speakers. I started going in 2000 and have not missed a year yet.

I have made some good friends there, some featured in the photo 3rd from the top. We’re known as the“Shade Tree Gang”.

Also shown is my favourite means of getting from the airport to the ranch - a red mustang convertible! There is quite a lot of wildlife at the ranch too - horses, havelinas, birds and skunks, (they arentactually aproblem and are really beautiful).

The Winter Star Party used to be held at the bottom of the Florida Keys and hence presents a good slice of the southern skies (down to -66 degrees declination!). Seeing is generally regarded as being outstanding, which more than makes up for the small amount of light pollution. The horizon due South was looking out over the sea! Photo bottom left gives you some idea of thisfantastic setting. After a big storm, the venue has changed.

AstroKeith 2018