Look up: Star parties planned across the state
Posted April 3, 2014
Updated April 4, 2014
The North Carolina Science Festival is underway with one of its signature events happening across the state this weekend. North Carolina Astronomy clubs are loading their telescopes and fanning out to parks, nature centers, planetariums, observatories, museums and universities across the state to help host the festival's Statewide Star Party Friday and Saturday.
The waxing crescent moon, Mars and Jupiter and its moons are among the planned observing targets. Daytime activities are planned in some locations including safe solar observing.
The International Space Station will also pass over our southern skies Friday and Saturday. Look to the southwest Friday at 9:28 p.m. for a brief pass before the station enters the Earth’s shadow two minutes later. Saturday’s pass is expected to be very bright beginning at 8:39 p.m. in the southwest and lasting more than five minutes.
Forty sites from Jackson County in the west to Nags Head in the east are hosting star parties including more than a dozen sites in the Triangle area. Events are also planned in Fayetteville, Rocky Mount and other central North Carolina locations.
Looking at the full list of participating sites you get an appreciation for how wide our state is. The sun will set 30 minutes later on the event hosted by Western Carolina University than on the one at the Run Hill State Natural Area in Nags Head.
The event has been so popular over the years that our neighbors south of the border are getting into the fun too. Six events are planned across South Carolina Friday and Saturday.
Most events are free, but a few require advance registration. Should the weather not cooperate with sky watching, most sites have a other family-friendly activities planned as well. Check the festival’s online calendar for details and check with the individual sites.
Tony Rice is a volunteer in the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program and software engineer at Cisco Systems. You can follow him on twitter @rtphokie.