The stars shine brighter in Halifax County, VA

Out of This World Views

A hidden gem of the community, Staunton River State Park is nestled on the shorelines of the SOVA Wild Blueways. It has several notable qualities, being one of the first Virginia state parks opened nearly a century ago, its location at the convergence of the Dan and Staunton Rivers, in addition to being one of few places in the state certified as an International Dark Sky location. This dark sky designation allows Staunton River State Park to see some breathtaking views of the night sky, and with a little help from amateur astronomers and their telescopes, even the public can catch unspoiled views of faraway celestial bodies.

Have you ever tried to look at the night sky, only to see the moon, possibly a few very bright stars, and little else? This is an immediate side effect of light pollution, caused by streetlights and buildings lit at night, which is common in urban settings. Staunton River State Park’s natural surroundings and rural location means it is unaffected by light pollution. This unique quality was certified by the International Dark-Sky Association, and the state park joined a list of other dark sky parks that are recognized internationally.

This unique attribute has attracted the interest and eyes of the Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society (also known as CHAOS), who now visit the park on a monthly basis. Members, which range from amateur astronomers to college professors, enjoy sharing their love of astronomy and wealth of knowledge with others. At these monthly astronomy sessions, they set their equipment to the sky, and graciously allow observers to view stars and planets. These high-powered telescopes allow the beholder to view the surface of the moon, distant stars, or even close up views of our solar system’s planets, like the rings around Saturn. Attendees get up-close views of stars and planets that many only see in science textbooks, all while members of CHAOS put their tools and astronomical subjects into perspective.

If you’re looking for a unique experience that’s not only informative but fun, a visit to these monthly astronomical sessions is a must. Between the serene setting of the park, views of the heavens, and the enthusiasm and knowledge of CHAOS members, the astronomy sessions are sure to delight visitors and locals alike. For more information, visit Staunton River State Park’s website, learn more about the members and goals of CHAOS, and see upcoming sessions on their page.

2024 Public Observation Sessions:

  • January 13, 7 – 9 pm
  • February 10, 7 – 9 pm
  • March 8, 8 – 10 pm – Spring Star Party
  • April 8, Solar Eclipse: Time TBD
  • April 13, 8 – 10 pm
  • May 11, 9 – 11 pm
  • June 8, 9 – 11 pm
  • July 6, 9 – 11 pm
  • August 3, 9 – 11 pm
  • September 7, 8 – 10 pm
  • October 4, 8 – 10 pm – Fall Star Party
  • November 2, 7 – 9 pm
  • December 7, 7 – 9 pm

Self Guided Events

Meteor Shower: July 17 through August 24

Partial Lunar Eclipse: September 18

Meteor Shower: December 7 through December 17

Please note: Observation sessions may be canceled due to unfavorable weather conditions. Check the weather or contact park staff for up to date info prior to observation sessions.

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