2015 Grand Canyon Star Party

View of Grand Canyon from Mather Point just as the stars are beginning to come out. Photo Courtesy of  Tyler Nordgren, University of Redlands.

Starry sky over Grand Canyon from Mather Point.

Tyler Nordgren, University of Redlands.

Star Party June 13–20, 2015
"Telescopes are magical: They convert light into wonder."
- Phil Plait

Jump to 2015 Star Party "Rundown" Video

Due to its dark skies and clean air, Grand Canyon offers one of the best night sky observing sites in the United States.

For eight days in June, park visitors explore the wonders of the night sky on Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim with the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and on the North Rim with the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix.

Amateur astronomers from across the country volunteer their expertise and offer free nightly astronomy programs and telescope viewing.

Visitors view the planet Saturn along with star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae by night; and the sun, Venus, or Mercury by day or just after sundown.

Experience spectacular views of the universe!
Dress warmly, temperatures drop quickly after sunset—even during summer months.

Telescopes ready for night sky viewing.

NPS/Marker Marshall

On the South Rim
Events include a slide show nightly at 8 pm, followed by telescope viewing behind Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Park rangers offer constellation tours at 9, 9:30, and 10 pm.

The slide show, constellation tours, and at least one telescope are wheelchair accessible. Park in lot 4 for closest parking. Parking lots 1 through 3 offer additional parking but further away. The Village Route (blue) shuttle bus runs every half-hour until 10:30 pm. To make sure you get a seat at the slide show, arrive a few minutes early.

On the North Rim
Find telescopes on the lodge porch every evening; daytime scopes may be available. Visitor center bulletin boards list additional events such as star talks and slide show programs in the Grand Canyon Lodge auditorium.
Bring a flashlight
Make your way safely: use a red flashlight since event organizers discourage white ligths on the telescope lot. Make a red flashlight by covering any flashlight with red cellophane or painting the lens with red nail polish or a red magic marker. For more on why red flashlights are helpful, click here. Although many telescopes come down after 11 pm, on nights with clear, calm skies some astronomers continue sharing their telescopes into the night.

The event is free (other than paying the park entrance fee of $25 per vehicle, good for 7 days of coming and going to either rim.) No reservations needed except for astronomers wishing to share their telescopes, who register through the astronomy clubs sponsoring the event. Come for a night, or for the whole event. Explore Grand Canyon by day and the universe by night!

Questions? Contact us

Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association Grand Canyon Star Party(South Rim) Web Site:

Saguaro Astronomy Club Grand Canyon Star Party (North Rim) Web Site:

Short time lapse video of the 2011 Star Party by Dean Ketelsen

Experience the mystery and wonder of Grand Canyon National Park's night sky in Episode 4 of the Grand Canyon in Depth Video Series,"Night Sky."

National parks protect some of the last remaining dark skies in this country.
The National Park Service embraces night skies as one of the many scenic vistas to preserve.

Learn more: http://www.nature.nps.gov/night/
2011 Grand Canyon Star Party Image by Dean Ketelsen.

2011 Grand Canyon Star Party Image by Dean Ketelsen.


Jim O'Connor of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association,
on dark adaptation of the eye and the value of red flashlights

Humans only need eight hours of sleep, maybe less, each night but there are more hours of night in most latitudes for much of the year. We tend to live a diurnal life, so we need eyes that can fill our needs both in light and dark environments. To do so, the eye has two types of cells; cones are used mainly for color vision, rods for black and white in low light levels. In daytime we need detail to live our lives, but at night our primary need is threat detection. The rods work best at detecting motion, for night survival. Since threats tend to sneak up from the side or behind, the rods are placed at the periphery of our eye while the cones occupy the central part of our vision. The effect is that at night we can detect motion at the edge of our view. Near the front we don't see so well at night, but if we look a bit to the side objects ahead of us can pop into view. Astronomers call this averted vision, and it is used to find faint objects in an eyepiece.

Rods don't work on their own; they are inert. Their type of nerve cell need a chemical to enable their function. The body does not produce this chemical in daytime. It takes a very low light level sensed by the eyes to produce this chemical called rhodopsin, or visual purple. When the light is detected at a low level for 20 minutes or so, the body starts producing rhodopsin and night vision starts setting in. The other contributor to night vision is the pupil opening, but that goes to maximum within a few minutes of dark exposure. The big player in night vision is rhodopsin, and that takes from 20 to 40 minutes for humans to start benefiting from it. A key trait of this feature is that rhodopsin is photoreactive. It only takes a few seconds of bright light to cause the rhodopsin to decay into two parts with a photosensitive reaction, and the rods stop working. Then the cycle starts again. It is an interesting trait that deep red lights do not trigger the neutralization of the rhodopsin, so astronomers and safety officials use red lights for night lighting to allow night vision to continue. Since, unless the light is monochromatic like a laser, even red light has elements from other colors, even a bright red light can reduce the rhodopsin so a dim red light is best for maximizing after-dark eye behavior.

Grand Canyon Star Party Dates Through 2020

June 13-20, 2015
June 04-11, 2016
June 17-24, 2017
June 09-16, 2018
June 22-29, 2019
June 13-20, 2020


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