Mount Lemmon SkyCenter Partners with Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to Lead Nationwide Livestream Star Party

May 18, 2020

Tucson, Arizona (MAY 18, 2020)—

The University of Arizona Mount Lemmon SkyCenter has partnered with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to lead a nationwide livestream star party on Friday, May 22, 2020 at LOCAL TIME in an effort to keep the nation connected to the night sky and to each other.

“Nothing drives us like tapping into the wonder and excitement of astronomy and space that we all share, as well as deepening our understanding together” said Dr. Alan Strauss, Director of the UA SkyCenter. “We are thrilled to be able to partner with the Smithsonian in sharing the night skies above the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter.”

The star party features astronomers and observatories in every time zone, and participants can expect to learn what to expect at a star party, and to see the night sky as it looks in every time zone in the country. “For most viewers, the experience will be like moving backwards in time through the night sky,” said Amy Oliver, Public Affairs Officer, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and Visitor & Science Center Manager, Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory.

“When the star party begins, it will be dark on the East coast but still light out in Arizona. By moving backwards through time zones, we give everyone watching the opportunity to see more of the night sky and with different seeing conditions.” Launching and maintaining nationwide star parties isn’t an easy task, and requires patience and the cooperation of multiple astronomers and observatories, and the support of the public.

“Nationwide Livestream Star Party was borne of the Smithsonian Institution’s mission to provide the very best educational experiences for the communities that we serve,” said Oliver. “The move to virtualized experiences has not only pushed the Smithsonian to think about new ways to connect with the community, but has also given us the unique opportunity to partner with some of the most talented and passionate science educators and astronomers in the nation. The people we’re connecting with, both community members and presenters, are people we may never have had the opportunity to engage with otherwise.” Friday’s Nationwide Livestream Star Party is a result of the nationwide response to the first event, held in April 2020, with results that far exceeded expectations. “We expected about 500 people to attend our first nationwide livestream star party,” said Oliver. “During the live event, more than 1,700 computers logged on, and that means about 3,400 people showed up to the star party. Since then, nearly an additional 1,000 computers have replayed that star party. That tells us that our collective communities want these star parties to happen, and we’re ready to keep going.”

The star party features Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Amado, Arizona; University of Arizona’s Mt. Lemmon Sky Center in Tucson, Arizona; astronomer Brian Cummins of Chantilly, Virginia; Pieter Strauss, astronomer on behalf of Utah Astronomy Club, Colorado; Emil Buehler Planetarium at Seminole State College, Florida; and, Martin Ratcliffe, astronomer on behalf of Wichita State University Cohen Honors College. Several participants are members of the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassadors volunteer corps.

Event details Date: Friday, May 22, 2020 Time: 7pm PT | 8pm MT | 9pm CT | 10pm ET


Direct access:

Guests of the star party will be able to interact with the panel by writing comments on the YouTube feed.


About the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter:

The Mission of the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter is to engage people of all ages in the process of scientific exploration, and to foster a deeper understanding of our Earth within the Universe. An exceptional science learning facility, located at the University of Arizona Steward Observatory's Mount Lemmon observing site, the SkyCenter is open to the public most Tuesday through Sunday nights, by advance reservation. These “SkyNights” are unique awe-inspiring opportunities to peer beyond the blue horizons of our southwestern skies and explore the astronomical wonders of the Universe. The SkyCenter operates under permit from the U.S. Forest Service.

About Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (part of Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory):

Located high in the Santa Rita Mountains above Amado, Arizona, the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory is the largest field site of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and a part of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian. Established in 1968 in the hunt for evidence of gamma-rays, Whipple Observatory is now home to 30+ telescopes, including the 6.5m MMT, which is currently the 14th largest optical telescope in the world.

Media Contact: Mount Lemmon SkyCenter Alan Strauss, Director 520-626-6488

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory Amy Oliver, Public Affairs 520-879-4406