2013 Grand Canyon Star Party Begins Today

The 23rd annual Grand Canyon Star Party begins today and will run through Saturday, June 15. The annual event, which draws amateur astronomers from across the country, is a celebration of the incredible night skies that can be found above the national park. For each of the next eight evenings, many of those astronomers will be camped out on both the North and South Rims helping other visitors to take notice of amazing display overhead.

Because of its remote location, the Grand Canyon is one of the best places in the U.S. to observe the night sky. The clean air and very dark skies make it possible to see far more stars, planets, galaxies and other celestial bodies than are typically visible in other parts of the country. Each night of the Star Party will feature organized astronomy programs and telescope viewings that will give those in attendance the opportunity to view such sights as Saturn and its iconic rings, enormous star clusters, mysterious nebulae and so much more. Venus and Mercury will also be on display, but visitors who want to catch a glimpse of those planets will need to observe them during the day, or very shortly after sunset.Events on the South Rim are being organized by the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and include nightly green laser constellation tours, slide shows and at least one telescope. On the North Rim, an array of telescopes will be set up on a porch at the lodge each evening courtesy of the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix. A bulletin board outside the visitor center will list any additional programs, such as slideshows and lectures, for each of the nights.

The Grand Canyon Star Party is completely free although a $25 park entry fee (good for seven days) is required. Visitors are encouraged to bring a flashlight but organizers of the event request that they be red flashlights in order to cut down on the amount of light pollution.