The 17th annual North Texas Skywatch Star Party has been set for Saturday, Oct. 5, at Lake Mineral Wells State Park. Star Party activities begin at 7 p.m. and stargazers and astronomy fans are invited to continue to search the skies throughout the evening.
Hosted by the state park and Tarleton, the annual event has become a popular activity for families from the Metroplex seeking a good viewing spot away from city lights. Activities are designed to entertain everyone from the veteran stargazers to the novice and just plain curious.
“We get two types of visitors for this event each year,” said Dr. Michael Hibbs, director of the Program for Astronomy Education and Research at Tarleton. “There are those who want to know more about ‘backyard astronomy’ and are looking for a great place to set up their telescopes; and there are those who never get to see the night’s sky without the interference of artificial lighting.”
Weather permitting, the star watching is expected to get under way at 7:15 p.m. Door prizes will also be awarded. Keeping a good thought for clear skies, skywatch party visitors are encouraged to bring their own telescopes if they have them and share their sightings with those who don’t.
The Skywatch Star Party was created by Hibbs and state park director David Owens. They have been working together on the project since hosting the first one 17 years ago in Johnson County at the Cleburne State Park.
This year’s attendance is expected to be 200 or more depending on the weather. “We have had as many as several hundred take part in this event or only a handful. It all depends on the weather,” said Hibbs. “The intent is to give the residents of the north Texas area a nearby meeting place and dark sky location to get together. I hope that all of those with telescopes can stay and share views through their telescopes, or knowledge of astronomy, to those wanting a chance to learn and see for the first time.”
Admission to the Skywatch Star Party is the price of admission to the Lake Mineral Wells State Park. Campers who bring their telescopes can stay overnight if they wish. Contact the Lake Mineral Wells State Park for more information and reservations by calling 940-328-1171. The park is located off Highway 180, 50 miles west of Fort Worth.