Richmond Astronomical Society


    Registration is open for the Staunton River Star Party October 21-27.  More information here.  And a new star party at James River State Park November 1-3!  Watch for more details here.

    Our next monthly meeting will be on Tuesday, September 10 at 7:30 PM at Science Museum of Virginia.   

    Please join us for the meeting and, if you can, for dinner before the meeting at Chicken Fiesta across from the Museum about 6:00 PM.

    RAS news and upcoming events are here and star party info is here.



New Star Party at James River State Park!


James River State Park will be hosting an astronomer’s observing weekend November 1-3, 2019. This is one of the darkest sites in Virginia east of the mountains. There will be a small fee (less than regular park camping). We will be using the entire amphitheater area for camping and observing. There will be limited electrical outlets but not on the field. There will be a heated bathroom nearby. We can also use the regular campground showers. The visitor center has limited WiFi.


The general plan is below. Final details are still in the works.


  1. We will have astronomers observing and camping in the amphitheater area.
  2. After sunset, the amphitheater road will be closed to car traffic at the shelter.
  3. Visitors can park at the shelter and leave during the night.
  4. Astronomers who plan to leave during the night can park at the shelter, or park on the road just past the shelter, car facing the exit. Astronomers who want to engage the public will also use this area.
  5. The imaging field will be for photographers. Anyone using this field is there for the night. Only drive away in case of emergency.
  6. The loop and lower parking will be for general astronomers who are staying the night. Only drive away in case of emergency.


Stay tuned for more info! Park website


James River State Park Star Party Map
Larger version at

Dark Sky Park Observing in Virginia


It would be surprising if you have not heard our members talk about the dark skies of rural Virginia and the support astronomy has received from Virginia State Parks.  But, just in case you have not heard, Virginia has two Dark Sky Parks, designated by the International Dark Sky Association – Staunton River State Park and James River State Park. We understand that additional parks in Virginia, including Fairy Stone, Natural Bridge, and Douthat State Parks have each expressed interest or are at some stage in the process of applying for Dark Sky Park certification.  You can see a complete list of all astronomy events at Virginia State Parks for May – December 2019 at the bottom of this post.  You will be amazed at the number of events that the parks have scheduled. (more…)

Staunton River Star Party – Registration is now open for October!


Registration is now open for the fall installment of the Staunton River Star Party (October 8 – 14)!


Registration information at


This star party is distinguished by being held at Staunton River State Park, which is designated by the International Dark Skies Association as a dark sky park and has a dedicated observing field adjacent to the visitor center.  The management and staff of the park have been extremely supportive of preserving dark skies in the area and have gone to great lengths to make astronomy a prominent activity at the park.  The hospitality they extend to the astronomers is unsurpassed.  The food and facilities are great; the Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society members have been outstanding hosts, doing prep work for the party, managing registration, and gathering very interesting and engaging speakers.


If you have not been to this star party before, it’s a real treat and very much worth the trip. There are always larger parties and darker skies in other parts of the country but the combination of dedication to the event, dark skies, hospitality, convenience, facilities, and good food that you find at the Staunton River Star Party are really, really hard to beat.  It’s difficult to say enough good things about this star party and the effort that the hosts have put into it.


Please join CHAOS and the Staunton River State Park park staff for the party on October 8 – 14.  If you can’t make it for the whole star party, come for whatever part you can or for public night on Friday, October 12.


Below is a link to images of the March 2018 party compressed into three minutes for your enjoyment.  Click on the image to view the video or watch on YouTube here.  You can view a longer version of the October 2017 party at this link.


East Coast Star Party–Endurance Test

ECSP observing field

Clouds, clouds, and more clouds. ECSP, sponsored by Kent Blackwell, ran from Thursday 10/12 to Saturday 10/14, but it was cloudy every night. For those who could stay one more day, Sunday turned out to be the redeeming factor. It was clear, but oh, the result of hitting the dew point was almost as bad as the rain. Caught without a heater, I dewed up in about an hour but everyone else was going strong through about 4 am.


2017 Solar eclipse at SMV

Was it an eclipse watch or a concert?

We’ve had some pretty large crowds at the SMV, but Aug. 21 of 2017 was one of the largest I’ve seen. Since we gave away 750 pairs of eclipse glasses, I’m estimating we had at least 800 people there. As you can see from the pictures here and below, it was pretty much standing room only. Since the eclipse started around 1:30, it was perfect that the SMV had arranged for several food trucks to be there, too.

Richmond only saw 86% of a total eclipse, but it was pretty dramatic, anyway.


Use Nextdoor app to arrange a neighborhood skywatch

I used an app called Nextdoor last Saturday night to announce a skywatch that I wanted to hold at my local high school. The tennis courts at the school are perfect, because there aren’t any parking lot lights in sight. And the webbing they have up on the surrounding fence almost completely eliminates the glare from outside lights on the building itself.

I put up my post at 4 pm for an 8:30 observing time, and got 4-5 responses. I did it with short notice on purpose, because I didn’t want hundreds of people showing up. I ended up having about 15 people and we had a great time. Most of them told me they loved the idea and hoped I would do it again. I also got some responses the next day from people who didn’t see the post in time, and expressed that they hoped I would do it again. I was ecstatic that half the audience were teen age and younger.


Skywatch at Tomahawk Baptist Church

Ray Moody and I (Terry) had a good crowd at Tomahawk Baptist Church last Friday (8/4) evening, and in spite of being alongside very busy Hull Street, we had a great time viewing the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and Albireo (double star). I’m estimating about 60-70 kids and parents were there, celebrating the end of their Vacation Bible School.

We were even treated to hot dogs, brownies, and a gift card to Burger Bach. Outstanding.

Nice Thank You letter from SPBC skywatch

I received this email after helping St. Paul Baptist Church host a skywatch in July. They were a great bunch, and we had a good time viewing Jupiter, the Moon, and some double stars. And I was surprised and pleased to see Tiffany and Joyceline at the last SMV skywatch–now, that’s staying in touch.

Hi Terry,

We wanted to send you a heartfelt thank-you for your support of our Skywatching party in late June.  We appreciate your patience and assistance in sharing your telescope and knowledge with our Saint Paul’s family.  We received lots of positive feedback on the skywatching party and the kids amazement in peering at the planets and stars.  Thank you for being a part of this and exposing our youth to astronomy.  Thanks again!

Tiffany C. Owens
System Safety Engineer
Naval Surface Warfare Center- Dahlgren/ CDSA Dam Neck

And a Big Thank You from me too.

Josey-Harris, Joycelyn F CIV NSWCDD, V33