UPDATE, Aug. 16, 11:10 a.m.: Due to a forecast of cloudy, rainy weather, the Star Party has been moved to Aug. 24, and will be held that evening rain or shine.
The “Dark Skies, Bright Kids” program at the University of Virginia and the Charlottesville Astronomical Society will host a Central Virginia “Star Party” on Aug. 17, from 6 to 10 p.m., at Albemarle CiderWorks, located at 2545 Rural Ridge Lane in North Garden. The rain or cloud date is Aug. 24 at the same time and location.
Families are invited to view spectacular astronomical objects through telescopes and learn about the solar system, the night sky, galaxies and the universe through fun hands-on activities. Telescopes will be set up and each child will receive a glow stick – as long as supplies last.
The Central Virginia Star Party is an annual event for families to promote an often under-appreciated natural resource: pristine dark skies. Several telescopes and binoculars will be set up for visitors and operated by knowledgeable amateur and professional astronomers for viewing objects in the night sky and learning about the constellations.
Indoor activities will include lessons inside a portable Star Lab Planetarium, plus a variety of interactive activities.
Other features of the event include cider tasting, food trucks, invisible light demonstrations and a tour of the solar system.
Visitors should bring chairs or blankets, insect repellent, drinking water and flashlights.
“Dark Skies, Bright Kids” is an outreach club founded by the U.Va. Department of Astronomy in the College of Arts & Sciences. It is dedicated to bringing astronomy to the area’s rural elementary schools. Staffed and run by volunteers, the organization hosts eight- to 10-week after-school astronomy clubs at rural elementary schools in southern Albemarle County as well as one-time events at other locations in the area.
Rural schools are chosen for this program in an effort to bring science-based after-school programs to areas where such programs may not exist, and because rural areas have some of the darkest skies in the East; great for viewing stars and planets.
“Our most important goals are to show students that science can be fun and encourage them to be curious and inquisitive about the world around them,” said program organizer Kelsey Johnson, a U.Va. astronomy professor.