First Annual David H. Levy Arizona Dark Sky Star Party at Kartchner Caverns
The event will get underway October 23rd and run through October 27th 2019, featuring special lectures from the legendary Comet Discoverer David H. Levy, world renowned Eclipse Expert Fred Espenak, iconic Astrophotographer Jack Newton, Scott W. Roberts Founder of Explore Scientific, Astrophotographer Robert Vice, and Dark Skies Champion Mike Weasner.
This is a very limited engagement to 50 people, so there will be plenty of opportunity to meet with our featured experts.
There are four options for registration: star party registration only, and star party registration with Kartchner Caverns Tour, star party with Kitt Peak Observatory VIP Tour, and star party with Caverns Tour and Kitt Peak VIP Tour.
You will have full access to the group site where we will be setting up our telescopes. There is 24-hour access to bathrooms on the observing field, showers are also available at the state park.
Note that the registration fees do not include hotel accommodations, camping fees, or meals. If you wish to camp at the Group Camping Site, please select the number of nights (up to four) that you need. Here are the other options for tent camping, RV camping, and hotels:
The two-loop campground is located off of the main road past the Discovery Center on the southwest end of the park. Camping fees are payable with cash, Visa or Mastercard at the Contact Station the day of arrival, or at the Discovery Center the following day, but be sure you make reservations early as camp sites fill quickly.
About Kartchner Caverns and the State Park
Discovered in 1974 and kept secret to protect its amazing treasures for 14 years, Kartchner Caverns State Park was named the number one attraction in Arizona by the USA Today Reader’s Choice Awards in 2017. This amazing “living” cavern system is carved out of limestone and filled with spectacular speleothems which have been growing for 50,000 years or longer, and are still growing. The Park preserves a set of ‘living’ limestone caverns whose known passages total 3.9 km (2.4 miles).
A complex system of air-lock doors, misting machines and other equipment, are required to properly conserve the delicate interior conditions that allow the cave to continue growing while allowing for public visitation of its chambers. The park also includes several kilometers of hiking trails outside the caverns for public use.
Why was Kartchner Caverns State Park Selected for the Arizona Dark Sky Star Party?
Some star parties boast ultra dark skies (often very remote and isolated), while others offer astronomy in a unique setting that are closer to attractions that everyone can enjoy. We opted for very dark skies in a comfortable setting with plenty of attractions within an hour's drive (not to mention the Kartchner Caverns itself and the adjacent Coronado National Forest). Kartchner Caverns was selected as a "Silver Tier" Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association through the efforts of Robert L. Gent (1947-2019) and Mike Weasner through the IDA in 2013. A special dedication will be made at the event in memory of Bob Gent.
The site is only 30 miles away from the historic Old West town of Tombstone with four star hotels, colorful day and nightlife, and the infamous O.K. Corral. Benson is also nearby with hotels and plenty of places to load up on supplies.
A Designated Arizona Dark Sky Park
Kartchner Caverns State Park is the 5th International Dark Sky Park in Arizona! The facility achieved a remarkable 99% initial compliance with its Lightscape Management Plan, the result of Park-led efforts to substantially improve outdoor lighting codes at the county level and in the nearby city of Sierra Vista. Mike Weasner who promotes the many benefits of dark skies and the International Dark Sky Association will give a special presentation at this event.
Available to all registered attendees, our Astrophotography Workshops will be conducted by Robert Vice with special guest Jack Newton. The first session will be for beginners, the next is for those who are already experienced, but want to take their imaging to the next level. Together, Newton and Vice will inspire you to begin taking images of celestial treasures and teach you how to make images you will proud of.
The Kitt Peak Observatory VIP Tour
Get a behind the scenes tour of one of the world's iconic research facilities at Kitt Peak Observatory. This is a new, not-to-be-missed, all-encompassing tour intended for any group with a desire to learn more in-depth knowledge of the historic and scientifically important observatories on Kitt Peak. Spanning 4 to 5 hours, this tour will cover the entire summit of Kitt Peak. The program requires extensive walking, and most facilities visited are not wheelchair accessible.
World Class Birding
Nearby Ramsey Canyon is a birder's paradise drawing serious enthusiasts from around the world. This area is a mountain and riparian habitat, with Hummingbirds, resident birds, and migrant birds. In all, over 200 species can be found in this region.
Learn more about birding in this region from the Tucson Audubon Society.
Where to Stay
You will need to make your own arrangements for camping or at other nearby accommodations. If you are bringing your own astronomy equipment and want to camp near your setup, we have reserved the Group Camp Site for 20 camp sites. Make your reservations early!
*This page will be updated with lecture and activity schedules, star party rules, door prize details, etc.