With the arrival of good weather, the star-party season is upon us.
A while ago SkyNews editor Terrence Dickinson asked me if I was going to Starfest. I told him I wanted to, but that it always seemed to overlap with the Mt. Kobau Star Party — an event I’ve attended every year, starting in 1986. It’s the same reason I’ve yet to visit the Saskatchewan Summer Star Party. Terry noted that such conflicts were inevitable since pretty much all the major star parties in Canada cluster around the two or three moonless weekends in summer. Chalk another one up to life in a northern clime — the rest of the year it’s too cold or the nights are too short to hold a star party.
The vast majority of Canadian star parities are scheduled for new-Moon weekends in July and August. And if you’re like me, you have a favourite that you’d never think of skipping. So, you’re probably not going to get to many other events. Ever. Since the August dark-of-the-Moon always finds me at Mt. Kobau, all that’s left are the July (and maybe, September) star parties.
Our short observing season contrasts with the bonanza of star parties enjoyed by our neighbours to the south. In the States, star-party season begins in February with the Winter Star Party and wraps up in November with the Chiefland Star Party, both of which are held in Florida. In between there’s the Texas Star Party, Riverside, Stellafane, Table Mountain, and a host of other big events. Really, it’s not a season so much as a year’s worth of gatherings with a two-month hiatus.
If you’ve never attended a star party, you really should give it a go. It’s lots of fun to share telescope time and experiences with a group of like-minded enthusiasts. Most events feature fine deep-sky observing conditions, astrophotography and telescope-making contests, door-prizes, and talks by some of the best-known amateur astronomers out there. After all, it’s not for nothing that it’s called a star party. Have a look at our Star Party Calendar and pick one to try. Who knows, you might just get hooked.