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 and residents 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.
Through the telescopes you might view an assortment of planets, double stars, star clusters, nebulae and distant galaxies by night, and perhaps the Sun or Venus by day. At the 2019 Star Party, Jupiter and Saturn will be evening highlights, but you will find astronomers pointing telescopes at Mercury and Mars in the western sky just after sunset. Skies will be starry and dark until the moon rises at 11:47 pm the first night. It rises progressively later throughout the week of the Star Party.
Experience spectacular views of the universe! Dress warmly. Temperatures drop quickly after sunset—even during summer months.
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. Closest accessible parking is in lot 4. Lots 1 through 3 offer additional parking.
During the Star Party, the Village Route (blue) shuttle bus runs every half-hour until 11 pm sharp. Theater capacity is limited. Arrive well before 8 pm to be sure of getting in, or come after dark and head straight to the telescope lot.
On the North Rim
On the North Rim, telescopes will be set up on the porch of the Grand Canyon Lodge every evening. An astronomy slide show will be presented at 8 pm in the auditorium of the Grand Canyon Lodge.
Green laser tours are also given, mostly spontaneously throughout the evening.
By day, solar observing is ongoing at the veranda, the Visitor Center and the General Store by the campground. Check the Visitor Center and park bulletin boards for slide show subjects and speakers.
2019 Star Party Evening Programs
South Rim Visitor Center. Doors open at 7:40 pm. Presentations start at 8 pm. (Limited-capacity seating)
Saturday, June 22 – Dr. John Barentine
Program Manager, International Dark Sky Association
Title: Star Light, Star Bright: Protecting our Dark Skies Heritage
Blurb: How and why we fight to save the night
Sunday, June 23 – Gabriel Biderman and Chris Nicholson
Title: National Parks at Night
Blurb: Learn about the beauty of the night sky and how photography can help protect it.
Monday, June 24 – Paul Bogard
Author of The End of Night: Searching for Darkness in the Age of Artificial Light
Title: Is it the End of Night?
Blurb: Learn about the challenge of light pollution, how we can solve it, and why we should.
Tuesday, June 25 – Gavin Heffernan and Harun Mehmedinovic
Title: Skyglow - Documenting the best remaining night skies and the growing threat of light pollution
Blurb: Explore North America’s remaining magnificent night skies, and the grave threat of light pollution to our fragile environment through astrophotography images, timelapse videos and stories
Wednesday, June 26 – Dr. Lisa Prato
Tenured Astronomer, Lowell Observatory
Title: Making New Worlds: How Do Planets Form?
Blurb: From the dense, sun-blasted Mercury to the cool cloud layers of giant Jupiter: we will explore how new stars and their diverse families of planets are born!
Thursday, June 27 – Dean Regas
Outreach Astronomer, Cincinnati Observatory, Co-Host of PBS’s Star Gazers
Title: Tour of the Universe: You Are Here
Blurb: Rocket through space and sail among billions of stars and galaxies as you contemplate the mind-blowing scale of the universe.
Friday, June 28 – Kevin Schindler
Lowell Observatory Historian
Title: Fly me to the Moon via Northern Arizona
Blurb: In the 1960’s-70’s astronauts trained in northern Arizona for their epic missions to the moon.
Saturday, June 29 – Dr. Danielle Adams
Arabian Astronomy Academic, Lowell Observatory
Title: Lions, Vultures and a Scorpion, Oh My! A Summer Jaunt through Arabian Skies
Blurb: Explore the stars of Arabian astronomy and how they found their way into our modern star names.
Night Sky Photography Workshops
Sunday, June 23 – National Parks at Night
Monday, June 24 – National Parks at Night
Tuesday, June 25 – Shreenivasan Manievannan
Wednesday, June 26 - Shreenivasan Manievannan
Friday, June 28 – Kevin Legore, Focus Astronomy
Constellation Talks by Dean Regas
Outreach Astronomer, Cincinnati Observatory and Co-Host of PBS’s Star Gazers
Thursday, June 27 – Dean Regas – Constellation Talk
Friday, June 28 – Dean Regas – Constellation Talk
Bring a Flashlight
Make your way safely: use a red flashlight since event organizers discourage white lights 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 $35 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!
CaLisa Lee takes us to the North rim of the Grand Canyon for their annual Star Party event. Hear from rangers and astronomers about how the night sky can connect us to other people and the past. Video by the Planetary Society: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9y2yJiSHPqM
Star Party Dates Through 2026
2019: June 22-29
2020: June 13-20
2021: June 05-12
2022: June 18-25
2023: June 10-17
2024: June 01-08
2025: June 21-28
2026: June 06-13
At the 2016 Grand Canyon Star Party
the International Dark-Sky Association awarded Grand Canyon National Park with Provisional Dark Sky Park status. The park is moving towards FULL Dark Sky Park status, primarily by replacing outdated light fixtures with energy-conserving, star-friendly alternatives.
In addition to supporting the Star Party and many other park projects, the Grand Canyon Association is currently fundraising for this special "Protecting the Night Sky: Half the Park is After Dark!" project. Contact the Grand Canyon Association for more information.
Experience the mystery and wonder of Grand Canyon National Park's night sky with Astronomer Tyler Nordgren and Park Ranger Rader Lane. Explore the beauty of the night sky and learn what you can do to help preserve it.
Amateur astronomers from across the country volunteer their expertise and offer free nightly astronomy programs and telescope viewing.
Dark Adaptation of the Human Eye and the Value of Red Flashlights
By Jim O'Connor of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association
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.