Saturday, March 2, 2024

ANC Star Party to take astronomers to another galaxy Nov. 11


Aspiring astronomers will get the chance to view the night sky like never before with the help of Acton Nature Center’s 10th annual Star Party event set from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Nov. 11.

Located at 6900 Smoky Hill Court, the Behold the Stars Star Party is a free event that will allow amateur astronomers to utilize high-powered telescopes to see stars, planets, and other gems that the night sky provides.

“The Fort Worth Astronomical Society will have their telescopes, so people can come freely and see neat sky objects, planets, and whatever is available that night,” said Robert Slaughter, president of the Rio Brazos Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist Program. “It’s been an annual event except we missed COVID and the year after, so we’re starting back up again.”

Gary Hinds, event coordinator, said that the Star Party first began in 2012, with as many as 300 people attending the event at one time.

“We find that having them in November is the best time to have these events,” he said.

The event will kick off with an astronomy program at 6 p.m. called “Where We Live,” with retired colonel and astronomer Brad Riza serving as speaker and lecturer.

“(I will show) a PowerPoint presentation about our solar system and expand outward into space to show relative sizes of planets in the night sky,” Riza told the HCN on Oct. 23.

“Brad is a great speaker,” Hinds said. “He inspires a lot of kids to look into science, so we’re fortunate to have him back.”

The deep sky observations, featuring local amateur astronomers and telescopes, will start at 7:30 p.m. Hinds, who is also a member of the Fort Worth Astronomical Society, said several of the outreach astronomers will be present at the event.

“We use this as a recruiting event to get people into our training program,” he said. “The training session starts in January, and we usually have three or four people who sign up from the Star Party every year.”

Hinds said the event will also include a raffle, which can sometimes contain as much as $300 worth of astronomy gear.

“It's amazing because there’s always several youngsters who have an interest in looking at the night sky,” he said. “We usually give away a star map that can be used any night of the year, and it’s calibrated so you put in the date and time, and then hold it up in the sky, and you can tell exactly what you’re looking at. It’s a great way to get people oriented to the sky.”

Hinds also added that, on the night of Nov. 11, there’s a good chance attendees will be able to look at Saturn, Jupiter, and a sliver of the moon.

“That makes for the best visual image through a telescope, a moon that’s got a dark center, so you can see the shadows and the craters,” he said.

“What we’re offering is to try to put astronomy out there in front of the public,” Slaughter added. “We’re trying to accomplish giving people a better knowledge of what they’re looking at. We want to get people familiar with constellations, stars, and nebula that they might not be able to see without a telescope.”

For more information, visit the Rio Brazos Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist program online at or contact the Acton Nature Center at 817-326-6005. | 817-573-1243