Looking for star party ideas? Looking to change up the star party viewing targets? Trying to get the public interested in a new star party or interested in attending? Don’t worry, we have you covered on plenty of ideas of what can make great star party ideas for the public!
Regardless of how good the planning is for an event, the weather can always take a turn for the worse. Cloudy and or rainy weather can cause star parties to be cancelled, which is normal for the Pacific Northwest and anywhere on Earth.
Here are the ideas
Positives: The moon is a large target that the public is familiar with, is easy to spot in the sky, and is a great amount of detail can be seen with most telescopes if the moon isn’t full. If combined with planetary viewing in the summer with Saturn, or Jupiter or fall with Mars. If there is a 1st quarter moon or smaller, there might be some opportunities to see some fainter stars in areas that the moon isn’t in.
Negatives: A full moon will show the totality of the moons surface, but it will show that surface in less detail. Moreover, a full moon will be too bright for viewing faint stars and the Milky Way. Therefore, it is recommended that if the moon is being viewed, make sure that it is not too bright to drown out other interesting celestial objects. There are many beautiful galaxies that can be drowned out by being too close to the moon.
- Meteor Shower
Positives: The Perseid and other Meteor Showers provide a wonderful show for the public without the need of a telescope! Visible with the naked eye, these celestial objects provide a great way for the public to view the heavens! Pair these meteor showers with a telescope if other celestial objects like the Milky Way or planets are in the sky to provide a wonderful experience for all!
Negatives: The number of meteors seen during a Meteor Shower can vary depending on whether it is during the peak of the meteor shower and if the moon is shining bright in the area that the meteor shower originates from.
More information about viewing Meteor Showers can be found here.
Positives: During the summer and fall, throughout the night, planets like Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter are all easily accessible to telescopes of all sizes. Mars will just be a small circle, without much detail for telescopes smaller than around 8-10 inches in diameter, but 6 inch telescopes provide great depth and contrast for the other planets. Plus, planets are very visible and the public loves seeing Jupiter and Saturn.
Negatives: They are really only visible in the early morning June, with visibility becoming earlier and earlier in the night throughout later September.
- Milky Way
Positives: It is visible with the human eye, and is really easy to photograph! Plus there are a plethora of targets to view inside the Milky Way with binoculars and telescopes. And the Milky Way is something that the Public rarely sees and they can know what it is.
Negatives: These are best seen during the June through September Months, which have the shortest viewing period because summer in the Pacific Northwest has the shortest nights. Moreover, seeing the Milky Way requires not having a full moon or moon in the sky near the Milky Way to drown it out.
These ideas make for great star party foundations, and they work well because there will be other celestial objects such as galaxies and nebula in the sky for viewing with a telescope.
Check out this article, which is designed to help volunteers understand best practices and assist in expectations.
Here is a wonderful article on star party etiquette that is a great resource to provide to guests and volunteers alike so everyone behaves their best.