Staunton River State Park Draws Astronomers from Across Nation f - WSET.com - ABC13

Staunton River State Park Draws Astronomers from Across Nation for Star Party

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Scottsburg, VA - The fields at Staunton River State Park in Halifax County are usually silent and bare at night.  For the next three days, however,  they'll be buzzing with hundreds of visitors.

The park kicked off the first day of its Star Party on Thursday. It's a time where amateur astronomers get together with their telescopes and observe stars and galaxies.

Astronomers said Staunton River State Parks offers one of the best skies for observation on the East Coast.  They said  it's the perfect opportunity to introduce people to the world of astronomy. 

What typically is a slow time of the year for Staunton River State Park in Halifax County, has turned out to be one of the busiest. That's because astronomers said the skies above the park offer a resource that's now disappearing.

"There's a code that shows you what light pollution levels are. Black being the best , then gray, then blue then green, they're in the blue," said Jayme Hanzak, an astronomer.

In 2011, the Chapel Hill Astronomical Observation Society, also known as CHAOS, decided to make use of the park's low light pollution, and host Star Parties.

They have a three day Star Party in the Spring, and a week-long event in the fall.  It fills up the park's field with campers and telescopes.

"People coming from New York to South Carolina to Chattanooga, Tennessee," said Hanzak. 

Astronomers said during the day they do more solar observing, but once night hits, they're looking at picture perfect stars and galaxies.

"You can see pictures of hubble and everything, but getting out here under the actual skies and just looking at something through lenses or mirrors is just a completely different experience," said Robert Nielsen, an astronomer.

The last day of the Star Party is open to the public, and astronomers get to share the world of astronomy with hundreds.

"We had a gentlemen in his mid-50s who had never looked through a telescope and he looked into the eye piece and backed off with tears in his eyes," said Hanzak. "He said that's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

This is the fifth Star Party Staunton River State Park has hosted. They're inviting the public to come out Saturday from 8 p.m. until midnight to see the stars. 

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