Explore Alliance Events: Second Annual David H. Levy Arizona Dark Sky Star Party and Astrophotography Workshops
To Be Rescheduled in September 2022: Second Annual David H. Levy Arizona Dark Sky Star Party and Astrophotography Workshops at Kartchner Caverns State Park
"What a blast! I’ve had so much fun exploring and sharing my passion for astronomy with all who attended the Arizona Dark Sky Star Party. It’s been an honor and a privilege to meet so many influential people in the world of astronomy. I’m already looking forward to next year!”
- Trevor Watson, Explore Alliance Member and Astrophotographer
"My wife and I were really looking forward to this Star Party with excitement and anticipation, and our hopes were more than fulfilled! Excellent speakers; beautiful starry venue; fascinating "insider" tour of Kitt Peak; Kartcher Caverns; the camaraderie of friends with a passion for astronomy; and a great presentation of the the quality of products offered by Explore Scientific. Thanks to all whose hard work more than paid off in my eyes!"
- John Verderame
"The Arizona Dark Skies were beautiful. The Speakers were some of the best hands-on in the field. To be able to not only hear from these experts, but to observe and ask questions over several days/nights was amazing!"
- Corinne Shaw
"Scott interviewed me and I stand by these words!! If you've never seen Arizona sky between the bones of the Earth and the immense swelling song of the southwest heavens, DO NOT miss this party! If you think I am exaggerating, come out and prove me wrong! I'll be out in the dark, looking up."
The Second Annual ADSSP event is to be confirmed for September (estimated from the 21st - 25th) 2022.
The second annual ADSSP, featuring the legendary Comet Discoverer David H. Levy, . In addition, we will conduct hands-on astrophotography, and much more!
Thousands of dollars worth of door prizes and gifts are being supplied by Explore Scientific, and the Explore Alliance.
This is a very limited engagement, so join the Explore Alliance, and watch for e-mail that will provide you with an exclusive discount code and save receive a $65 Explore Scientific Gift Card. At the event, there will be plenty of opportunities to meet with our featured experts, and members get a chance to win door prizes, and to receive *gifts from the Explore Alliance.
*Gifts are for Explore Alliance members who have filled out our survey form that will be passed out at the ADSSP Event.
Available to all registered attendees, our Astrophotography Workshops will be conducted each day and night by a team of experienced astrophotographers including Daniel Mounsey, and Simon Tang from Woodland Hills Camera and Telescopes, Mike Weasner, and Robert and Christina Vice.
Hands-on classes will be conducted at the Kartchner Caverns Ramada where there is plenty of electrical power for your telescopes and laptops.
Kartchner Cavern Daily Parking Fee
The State of Arizona charges for day use per vehicle (1-4 Adults): $7.00 each day. Overnight parking counts as camping and is $15.00 a night.
Telescope Field/Group Camp Site
You will have full access to the group site where we will be setting up our telescopes. There is 24-hour access to bathrooms on the observing field, showers are also available at the state park. This area is great for tent camping with your telescope. Note that if you need power you need to bring batteries.
Ramada Group Site
This area is designated for those attending the astrophotography workshops. Your instructors include Daniel Mounsey and Simon Tang of Woodland Hills Camera & Telescopes, and astrophotographer Robert Vice.
For those who are interested in astrophotography with your smartphone, Mike Weasner will give instruction on how to capture wide-field star trails, meteors, and how to capture deep-sky objects through a telescope.
For those requiring 110v power, we will use the Ramada at Kartchner Caverns.
For those with Dobsonians or telescopes with rechargeable power equipment, you can set up at the group camp area. Generators in this area (including the so-called quiet ones) have to be off by 10:00 p.m. so, consider that you will be working off-grid. If you need power, Explore Scientific offers the USB Power Bank with Red LED Flashlight.
Inside Tour of the World Famous Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab
During the 2nd Annual ADSSP, we will get an inside tour of the University of Arizona's Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory, where a team of scientists and engineers are making giant, lightweight mirrors of unprecedented power for a new generation of optical telescopes.
These mirrors represent a radical departure from the conventional solid-glass mirrors used in the past. They have a honeycomb structure on the inside; made out of Ohara E6-type borosilicate glass that is melted, molded and spun cast into the shape of a paraboloid in a custom-designed rotating oven. Honeycomb mirrors offer the advantages of their solid counterparts - rigidity and stability - but they can be significantly larger, and dramatically lighter.
The Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab team has developed a revolutionary new method to polish the honeycomb mirrors with a deeply curved, parabolic surface that results in much shorter focal lengths than conventional mirrors that are being used around the world to unlock the secrets of the universe.
Kartchner Caverns Tours
We will advise you which group and time slot you will be in. Note that we will accommodate, but not guarantee, preferences as much as possible but space is limited for each group. Please arrive at the Discovery Center 30 minutes earlier than the tour time so that you are not left behind.
Cavern Tour Rules:
- No cameras, cell phones, or video equipment of any kind.
- No lights or lasers allowed.
- No bags, purses, backpacks, or waist packs of any kind.
- No food or drink, including no water.
- No chewing gum.
- Only a set of keys and a wallet are allowed.
If you bring in things that are prohibited, you have two choices: Lock them in your vehicle or use 4 quarters and lock them in one of the lockers in the Discovery Center.
What is Not Included?
Note that the registration fees do not include hotel accommodations, camping fees (overnight parking counts as camping), or meals. If you wish to camp at the Group Camping Site, please select the number of nights (up to four) that you need (note that overnight parking counts as camping). Here are the other options for tent camping, RV camping, and hotels:
- Kartchner Caverns State Park - Tent and RV Camping (not the group camp)
- Benson, Arizona - Choose from These Hotels
- Tombstone, Arizona - Choose from These Resorts and Hotels
The two-loop campground is located off of the main road past the Discovery Center on the southwest end of the park. Parking and overnight parking/camping fees are payable with cash, Visa or Mastercard at the Contact Station the day of arrival, or at the Discovery Center the following day, but be sure you make reservations early as campsites fill quickly.
*Attendees that have prepaid for the Group Camping Site are covered and do not have to pay additional parking or overnight fees.
Kartchner Caverns State Park is a 45-minute drive from Tuscon International Airport: Get on Interstate Highway10 E from E Corona Rd, S. Alvernon Way, and E. Valencia Rd; Follow I-10 E to AZ-90 S in Benson. Take exit 302 for AZ-90 E toward Ft Huachuca/Sierra Vista; Follow AZ-90 S to Kartchner Caverns State Park.
The map below shows the park and the areas that we will primarily use for the event. The group camp/telescope field is about a mile drive from the entrance:
Site Coordinates, Time Zone, and Weather
- Coordinates: 31.8366° N, 110.3489° W
- Time Zone: Mountain Standard Time (GMT-7)
- Elevation: 4,734 ft (1,443 m)
- Weather: Latest Conditions and Forecast
- Website: https://azstateparks.com/kartchner/
- Map: Google Map of Kartchner Caverns State Park
- Sky Data: Clear Sky Chart for Kartchner Caverns State Park
Star Party Etiquette
Because this is a designated Dark Sky Site, no white lights are allowed. Red filtered lights are okay. Computer screens will need to be filtered or otherwise managed for red only illumination. Lasers are prohibited. Be courteous to your neighbors, this includes no loud music, loud conversation, etc.
Kartchner Caverns State Park is a state park of Arizona. This is in the desert, where you can expect creosote bush, mesquite, barrel cactus, prickly pear, and other desert flora and fauna. You need to dress appropriately for temperature extremes. Open-toed shoes are not recommended. Bring any medicines that you think you may require, and stay hydrated. Don't forget sunblock, a hat, and sunglasses, and a basic first aid kit. Alert the Park Rangers in case of any emergency.
About Kartchner Caverns and the State Park
Discovered in 1974 and kept secret to protect its amazing treasures for 14 years, Kartchner Caverns State Park was named the number one attraction in Arizona by the USA Today Reader’s Choice Awards in 2017. This amazing “living” cavern system is carved out of limestone and filled with spectacular speleothems which have been growing for 50,000 years or longer, and are still growing. The Park preserves a set of ‘living’ limestone caverns whose known passages total 3.9 km (2.4 miles).
A complex system of air-lock doors, misting machines, and other equipment are required to properly conserve the delicate interior conditions that allow the cave to continue growing while allowing for public visitation of its chambers. The park also includes several kilometers of hiking trails outside the caverns for public use.
Why was Kartchner Caverns State Park Selected for the Arizona Dark Sky Star Party?
Some star parties boast ultra-dark skies (often very remote and isolated), while others offer astronomy in a unique setting that is closer to attractions that everyone can enjoy. We opted for very dark skies in a comfortable setting with plenty of attractions within an hour's drive (not to mention the Kartchner Caverns itself and the adjacent Coronado National Forest). Kartchner Caverns was selected as a "Silver Tier" Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association through the efforts of Robert L. Gent (1947-2019) and Mike Weasner through the IDA in 2013.
The site is only 30 miles away from the historic Old West town of Tombstone with four-star hotels, colorful day and nightlife, and the infamous O.K. Corral. Benson is the closest to hotels and plenty of places to load up on supplies.
A Designated Arizona Dark Sky Park
Kartchner Caverns State Park is the 5th International Dark Sky Park in Arizona! The facility achieved a remarkable 99% initial compliance with its Lightscape Management Plan, the result of Park-led efforts to substantially improve outdoor lighting codes at the county level and in the nearby city of Sierra Vista. Mike Weasner who promotes the many benefits of dark skies and the International Dark Sky Association will give a special presentation at this event.
Where to Stay
You will need to make your own arrangements for camping or at other nearby accommodations. If you are bringing your own astronomy equipment and want to camp near your setup, we have reserved the Group Camp Site for 20 campsites. Make your reservations early!
- See Hotels in Benson, Arizona - 14 Miles from ADSSP
- See Hotels in Sierra Vista, Arizona - 24 Miles from ADSSP
- See Hotels in Tucson, Arizona - 30 Miles from ADSSP
*This page will be updated with lecture and activity schedules, star party rules, door prize details, etc.
CA Residents: Prop 65 WARNING(S)