by Amy Sayle

Maybe it was our anti-rain dance that did it.

For days, weather forecasts had predicted rain for Friday, April 5—the date of North Carolina’s first-ever Statewide Star Party. But the skies cleared just in time over virtually the entire state.

Statewide Star Party map

The Statewide Star Party was the kickoff to the 2013 North Carolina Science Festival – a two-week science party throughout the state.


Across a 500-mile swath of North Carolina, from the mountains to the Outer Banks, 45 sites planned skywatching sessions for the public on April 5th, as the kickoff to the 2013 North Carolina Science Festival.

Star party hosts included state and local parks, astronomy clubs, planetariums, museums, nature centers, and universities. Many hosts partnered with local amateur astronomers, who provided their telescopes and expertise.

Thanks to the lucky break with the weather, only two sites had to reschedule to the following evening, and only two sites reported canceling—one for clouds, another because of a freak April ice storm.

Jordan Lake 4-5-13 by Joe Pedit

Star party at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area. (Photo courtesy of Joe Pedit)


Since the star party date fell at the beginning of International Dark Sky Week and during a GLOBE at Night campaign, each site was asked to educate their audiences about light pollution and encourage them to document the darkness of the sky at the star party and later on in their own neighborhoods. Star party sites included urban areas such as Charlotte and Raleigh as well as places with darker skies.

Thanks to support from GLOBE at Night and NC Space Grant, star party hosts received a kit with materials that included a light pollution and shielding demo, the children’s picture book There Once Was a Sky Full of Stars, and information on how to contribute to GLOBE at Night’s worldwide map of light pollution.

LPDemo3 at Marbles Kids Museum

Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh figured out how to do their light pollution and shielding demo in daylight. (Photo courtesy of Mickey Jo Sorrell)

LPDemo6 at Marbles Kids Museum

Two brothers experiment with the light pollution demo. (Photo courtesy of Mickey Jo Sorrell)


One star party host approached local businesses before the event to explain about the effects of light pollution. As a result, several nearby businesses happily agreed to turn off their high-wattage floodlights during the hours of the star party to help improve visibility of the stars.

In addition to the usual nighttime telescope observing, some sites offered solar observing or other special activities. Depending on which event they attended, participants could “canoe the Milky Way,” hike at the beach, make star cookies, or see a planetarium show.

Jordan Lake 4-5-13 by Brian Owen - Josh at telescope

Josh Gough looks at Jupiter. (Photo courtesy of Brian Owen)


Stories and reports from the star party sites are still coming in, but it appears that thousands of North Carolinians shared views of the sky on April 5th. A number of star party sites attracted 100-200 participants each, and one event in Wilmington attracted well over a thousand people.

Kelvin peers through a telescope at Little River Regional Park

Not only humans got to peer through the telescopes. Kelvin, the “spokesbot” of the North Carolina Science Festival, checks out the sky at Little River Regional Park. (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Frederick)


We look forward to sharing the wonders of the night sky again next year at the 2nd annual North Carolina Statewide Star Party, to be scheduled sometime during the 2014 NC Science Festival (March 28-April 13, 2014). Maybe we’d better start those anti-rain dances again.





2011-05-31 Amy and Zeiss-1Amy Sayle is an educator at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Morehead proudly produces the North Carolina Science Festival, an annual two-week celebration showcasing science and technology with hundreds of science events across the state.



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