SCOUT KEY, Florida Keys — Prime viewing of southern constellations, comets and stars is to draw several hundred amateur and professional astronomers to the Lower Florida Keys Monday through Sunday, Feb. 13-19, for the Winter Star Party.
As many as 650 astronomers and astro-imagers from several countries typically gather for the renowned event, held at two Scout camps around mile marker 34 on U.S. Highway 1 at Scout Key, to explore the night sky.
The primary attractions are the clear, steady conditions and large number of celestial objects that are visible from the Lower Florida Keys — virtually the only place in the continental United States where they can be seen.
The Keys’ southern location and relative absence of large-scale artificial lighting at night provide optimal viewing opportunities, while the region’s subtropical “winter” climate enhances participants’ comfort during observation.
In addition to nightly stargazing opportunities, Winter Star Party participants can attend lectures and presentations by nationally recognized astronomers and guest speakers. Featured talks are to include “An Introduction to Celestial Navigation” by skilled commercial pilot Martin Caminos.
Attendees also can shop for astronomy equipment from on-site vendors, participate in photo contests, compete for prizes, learn what’s new in the field and share observing ideas and astro-imaging techniques with fellow aficionados.
Accommodations options include lodging in the Lower Keys as well as rustic and tent camping and a limited number of air-conditioned “Glam Tents” at the event site.
Established in 1984, the Winter Star Party is hosted by Miami’s Southern Cross Astronomical Society. While it is open to the public as well as to SCAS members, advance registration is required for admission to the event site.
Event information and registration: scas.org
Lower Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com/lowerkeys or 1-800-872-3722