BY AMY SAYLE
North Carolina hosts the biggest* statewide star party for the public in the entire universe—and you’re invited!
The 6th annual NC Statewide Star Party happens on Friday, April 20, and Saturday, April 21, 2018. Thirty-seven hosts across the state, from the mountains to the coast, will offer skywatching events for the public on April 20 or 21. These hosts include astronomy clubs, parks, libraries, nature centers, and universities.
What might you do at a Star Party event?
1. Look through a telescope. Virtually every Star Party event will offer telescope observing (weather permitting), many of them with the generous help of volunteers from local astronomy clubs. The telescope operators will help you look at a variety of objects.
2. Observe the Moon. On the 2018 Star Party dates, April 20 and 21, the waxing crescent Moon will visible during the afternoon and evening.
3. View a planet or two. Your opportunity to see a planet in the sky** will depend on the specific Star Party event you choose to attend. If the event starts relatively early in the evening and has an unobstructed view to the west, you may see Venus (currently setting a couple hours after the Sun). If the event runs fairly late and has an unobstructed view to the east, you may see Jupiter rising.
4. Participate in other astronomy activities. Thanks to generous funding from NC Space Grant, all hosts have been provided with a kit full of hands-on astronomy activities related to this year’s Star Party theme: “Anyone Out There?” – the search for life in the universe.
Depending on which activities the hosts have decided to use, you might: discover how scientists find planets around distant stars (“exoplanets”), identify stars with exoplanets, make a star wheel, probe an icy world, consider the extreme conditions life can thrive in, or imagine an alien.
The Statewide Star Party is part of the NC Science Festival, which features hundreds of science events throughout North Carolina during the entire month of April 2018. Find a Star Party event – or other Science Festival event – near you at the Festival website.
*as far as we know anyway
**Sticklers for accuracy will note you can always see a planet if you look at the ground (Earth).