SCOUT KEY, Florida Keys — Amateur and professional astronomers can experience unparalleled viewing of southern constellations, comets and stars in the Lower Florida Keys during the 33rd annual Winter Star Party, underway now through Sunday, Feb. 26.
The deep-sky spectacle is happening at Camp Wesumkee, a Girl Scout camp at mile marker 34.5 off U.S. Highway 1 on Scout Key. The Lower Keys' southern location, paired with the region's relative absence of large-scale artificial lighting at night, create conditions for exceptional viewing.
More than 600 astronomy aficionados from around the world typically participate, attracted by the chance for warm-weather viewing of the Southern Cross and other southern constellations in clear, steady night skies. The Florida Keys are among the only places in the contiguous United States where those celestial objects can be seen.
In addition to nightly stargazing, Winter Star Party participants can attend lectures and presentations by nationally recognized astronomers and guest speakers including astro-photographer and event director Tim Khan.
Participants also can display their skills in photo contests, expand their knowledge in workshops, research and obtain astronomy equipment from on-site vendors, network with fellow astronomy aficionados, get updates on astro-imaging techniques and exchange information and advice relating to the field.
The gathering is hosted by Miami's Southern Cross Astronomical Society. Founded in 1922, the SCAS is one of the oldest amateur astronomical societies in the Western Hemisphere.
The Winter Star Party is open to the public as well as to SCAS members, though advance registration is necessary for admission.
Event information and registration: scas.org
Lower Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com/lowerkeys or 1-800-872-3722
Greg Bragg aims his telescope during the 2016 Winter Star Party on Scout Key, where more than 600 amateur and professional astronomers view the heavens.
Amateur and professional astronomers are attracted to the unparalleled viewing of southern constellations, comets and stars in the Lower Florida Keys.
Florida Keys visitor Terry Beeman caught this great shot of the night skies.