The Texas Star Party (TSP) will celebrate its 38th anniversary this weekend as it kicks off a week-long festival of everything astronomy.
In addition to the overview of the event’s activities listed here, we provide a history of the event as well as some interesting videos of attending the event and seeing in the extremely dark skies of southwest Texas. You can keep up with events you can watch the latest ON-SITE reports from roving reporter Will Young on the TSP General Forum.
Here is a brief rundown of the event’s activities:
Speakers – Evening guest speakers and daytime amateur talks and two nights of the Great Texas Giveaway offering great door prizes.
TSP Observing Programs – Offers specific observing lists for the dark Texas skies.
Commercial Displays – The Vendor Pavilion will be full of vendors exhibits and their wares.
Show Your Best Stuff – Astrophotography, sketching, and Amateur Telescope Making (ATM) recognition, and a attendee Swap Meet.
TSP Ladies – Daily activities for non-astronomy spouses.
Big Bend Museum Tour – Carpool trip of the Museum of the Big Bend, located nearby at Sul Ross University.
Bus Tours to McDonald Observatory – Offers an exclusive tech tour of the famed McDonald Observatory.
Amateur Radio Operations at TSP – Amateur astronomers who double as ham radio enthusiasts can tell the world about their TSP experience.
Mirror-Making Workshop – Provides expert guidance, mirror-making stands, and testing equipment.
Texas Star Party History
The Texas Star Party was started in 1979 by Deborah Byrd, members of the Austin Astronomical Society, and the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. There were around 100 astronomy enthusiasts who spent a weekend in August at nearby Davis Mountains State Park who enjoyed dark sky observing, a Saturday evening speaker, and Saturday night observing at McDonald Observatory.
In 1982, David Clark, George Ellis, and Don Garland organized the TSP on the Prude Ranch where it has been held each year in late April or May (except for TSP 1997 which was held at Alto Frio Baptist Encampment, on the banks of the Frio River, 40 miles north of Uvalde, Texas – in 1998, TSP returned to the Prude Ranch). Astronomy clubs from the Southwest Region of the Astronomical League(SWRAL) and individual volunteers help operate the annual star party. TSP attendance has grown to more than 1,000 attendees.
The TSP relationship with McDonald Observatory and the University of Texas has remained strong throughout the years. TSP has also supported the protection of night-time skies from ever-growing light-pollution. This support has included funding public information vehicles regarding light pollution, efficient lighting practices, and exterior-lighting ordinances in the west Texas area.
TSP Light Reduction Project donors have raised money for activities such as the replacement of various street light fixtures throughout Jeff Davis county and in nearby towns of Fort Davis, Valentine, Marfa, and Alpine. This continuing effort is intended to preserve the dark skies for future TSPs, as well as to protect the viability of McDonald Observatory.
If you have not already made plans you probably aren’t planning on attending however, you might enjoy these TSP related videos: