Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

November 17, 2006

10th Annual North Texas Skywatch Star Party at state park

Saturday is shaping up for a perfect evening of star gazing.

The 10th annual North Texas Skywatch Star Party is this Saturday, Nov. 18, at Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway.

Star Party activities begin at 4 p.m. and stargazers and astronomy fans can continue to search the skies as long as they want.

Hosted by Lake Mineral Wells State Park, Tarleton State University and Tarrant County College, the annual event has become a popular activity for families from the Metroplex seeking a good viewing spot away from city lights. Activities are designed to entertain everyone from the veteran stargazers to the novice and just plain curious.

“We get two types of visitors for this event each year,” said Dr. Michael Hibbs, Director of the Program for Astronomy Education and Research at Tarleton. “There are those who want to know more about ‘backyard astronomy’ and are looking for a great place to set up their telescopes; and there are those who never get to see the night’s sky without the interference of artificial lighting.”

Those who arrive early can stake out the best locations. A special section will be set aside to buy and sell astronomical related items. There will be a kid’s corner, informal talks on various topics, and informational booths from local college and university astronomical programs, planetariums, and local astronomy clubs.

NBC Channel 5 meteorologist Rebecca Miller will be the guest speaker. Miller is expected to speak at 5:30 p.m. Weather permitting, the serious star watching is expected to get underway at 7:15 p.m. Door prizes will also be awarded.

Keeping a good thought for clear skies, skywatch party visitors are encouraged to bring their own telescopes if they have them and share their sightings with those who don’t.

The Skywatch Star Party was the creation of Hibbs and Lake Mineral Wells State Park Director David Owens. They have been working together on the project since hosting the first one ten years ago in Johnson County at the Cleburne State Park.

Past star shows have brought over 900 people, however, many North Texas amateur astronomers attended and over 90 telescopes were available for viewing. The Skywatch Star Party has been advertised in Astronomy, Sky and Telescope, and local newspapers. This year’s attendance is expected to be 700 or more depending on the weather.

“We have had as many as several hundred take part in this event or only a handful. It all depends on the weather,” said Hibbs. Both Hibbs and Owens agree the condition of the skies is something that neither can control and that cloudy weather makes for poor star viewing.

Admission to the Skywatch Star Party is the price of admission to the Lake Mineral Wells State Park. Campers who bring their telescopes can stay overnight if they wish. Contact the Lake Mineral Wells State Park for more information and reservations by calling (940) 328-1171. The park is located off U.S. Highway 180 East just east of Mineral Wells.