Star parties are gatherings to observe the night sky with others. Many people join clubs like RAC because observing with the club is more fun than observing alone. That’s the “party” part of a star party. It’s also a chance to socialize, ask questions, learn new things, and see new gear.

We generally offer a free, public, family-friendly star party every month on the Saturday near New Moon. When the Moon is in the sky, it’s a good night to look at the Moon and little else; when the Moon is not in the sky, it’s a good night to look at everything else.

2017 RAC Public Star Party Schedule

28 Jan
25 Feb
11 Mar
Marine Corps Museum
29 Apr
06 and 07 May
Stratford Hall
27 May
22 Jul
(Aug is club picnic
at a private home,
not a public event)
Sep Oct 11 Nov
16 Dec

Messier Marathon

Star parties and other events are also found on our club calendar.

Observing begins as soon as it is dark enough to see stars and planets, generally half an hour to an hour after sunset. Members bring telescopes and binoculars and spend the evening observing. Members are happy to offer views through their telescopes to visitors to enjoy the stars. Star parties are a good opportunity to improve observing skills and look through a variety of different telescopes.  If you are thinking of buying a telescope, you can talk with different members about why they chose different equipment.

If you arrive after dusk, please try to enter the telescope field using only parking lights because bright lights reverse visual night adaptation of those already observing. People bringing telescopes should arrive before sunset to allow time for equipment setup without the need for bright lights. If you need help with your new telescope, allow extra time by arriving early – club members will be busy setting up their own scopes and will need the extra time to help newcomers.

The admission fee normally collected in the drop box at Caledon State Park is not required for RAC public star parties.

For more on what to expect when attending a star party, check out What is a Star Party? and Star Party Etiquette.

Looking for something to observe? Visit Observing the Night Sky to view resources for planning your observing session.

Once each year, RAC holds a special all-night star party called a Messier Marathon. For special circumstances, RAC can arrange a public outreach event for your organization, school, or Scout group.

Star parties require clear skies and are dependent on the weather. If the forecast is for cloudy skies, the event will be cancelled. We make a decision based on the forecast — and if, by chance, the clouds do disappear in the evening, the event remains cancelled nonetheless. An up-to-date announcement will be posted on the RAC home page at noon on the day of a star party.

RAC members-only events at Belmont or other locations will be published to the club membership.

Outreach Star Parties

In addition to our regularly scheduled open-to-the-public monthly star parties, RAC also arranges public outreach events for schools, parks, Scouts, and other community groups. Introducing the public to the night sky is a key part of our club’s mission. Contact our event coordinator
to set up an event for your group. If you are a Scout group, contact our Scouting Coordinator. If you would like to schedule a program for your school other than observing the sky, contact our School Programs Coordinator.

See our Outreach and Scouting pages for more.