Explore Alliance Events: Second Annual David H. Levy Arizona Dark Sky Star Party and Birding Event
Second Annual David H. Levy Arizona Dark Sky Star Party and Birding Event 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
The Second Annual ADSSP event will get underway May 20th and run through May 24th 2020, featuring the legendary Comet Discoverer David H. Levy, as well as other prominent astronomers and astrophotographers. In addition we will also have an experience guide for the birding excursion.
Thousands of dollars worth of door prizes are being supplied by Explore Scientific, and the Explore Alliance.
This is a very limited engagement to 100 people, so there will be plenty of opportunities to meet with our featured experts.
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 perfect for astrophotographers with plenty of 110v power.
Kartchner Caverns does not have sufficient electrical power at the observing field for your telescope gear and computers. Generators (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, bring your rechargeable power equipment. Explore Scientific offers the USB Power Bank with Red LED Flashlight.
Kartchner Caverns Tours
We have two group tours on Saturday. 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. Tours are at 1:00 p.m. and 1:20 p.m. 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 is 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.
Available to all registered attendees, our Astrophotography Workshops will be conducted by Robert Vice with special guest Jack Newton. The first session will be for beginners, the next is for those who are already experienced, but want to take their imaging to the next level. Together, Newton and Vice will inspire you to begin taking images of celestial treasures and teach you how to make images you will proud of.
The VIP Tour
Our first ADSSP attendees got a behind the scenes tour of one of the world's iconic research facilities at Kitt Peak Observatory. Our 2020 event will have an equally amazing experience.
The 2020 ADSSP will host a formal birding excursion with an experienced guide. Nearby Ramsey Canyon is a birder's paradise drawing serious enthusiasts from around the world. This area is a mountain and riparian habitat, with Hummingbirds, resident birds, and migrant birds. In all, over 200 species can be found in this region.
Learn more about birding in this region from the Tucson Audubon Society.
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!
*This page will be updated with lecture and activity schedules, star party rules, door prize details, etc.
CA Residents: Prop 65 WARNING(S)