CAAS’s Star Parties and Observing Events by Location
The Central Arkansas Astronomical Society (CAAS) holds star parties most months, March through November each year. Below, we list the principal places where CAAS holds or participates in Public Star Parties, together with a brief overview of the typical program format at each location. Click on the title of each for more information on the location. Clicking on an event on the CAAS calendar of events will provide more information.
For all outdoor observing events, it is good to consider bringing portable chairs, binoculars, and bug spray in season and to dress warmer than you think you need to. If you want to use a flashlight, make it a red one, and don’t wear clothes or shoes that light up or flash.
Lake Sylvia is a very rare jewel of a site for a public star party. Located only about forty minutes west of Little Rock with a class one highway all the way but the last quarter mile, it nevertheless has a fine dark sky – the least light-polluted of CAAS’s star party venues, except for ANSA’s Dark-Sky Festival held near the Buffalo National River Dark-Sky Park.
The Sylvia event will naturally focus on telescopic views of dim, deep-sky objects and constellation tours. Indoor presentations will occur in Ogden Hall at 6:00, rain or shine. Observing will begin on the peninsula on the lake’s south side, if clear, starting at 7:00. If uncertain, check the calendar for cancelation an hour before the event.
Reflecting poles will mark a short trail from the day area parking lot to the observing location. RV and tent camping are available, and there are some primitive cabins to rent as well.
Natural Steps Sports Complex (aka the soccer fields)
Located just north of the new Pinnacle Mountain State Park visitor center on Highway 300, the Soccer field complex is as accessible. It has a slightly darker sky than the Pinnacle Mountain site reviewed below. However, it does not have indoor facilities for presentations, and the restrooms are porta-potties. With a fairly clear horizon to the south and west, this site lends itself to catching the receding summer Milky Way. The program will be canceled in the event of cloudy weather. If uncertain, check the calendar for cancelation an hour before the event.
Pinnacle Mountain State Park – Old Visitor Center (not the new center on 300)
The main virtue of Pinnacle Mountain is it is so accessible. However, that comes with a significant level of light pollution. Nonetheless, it has been a popular location and typically will have nearly a dozen telescopes and crowds as large as 600 or more if the season and weather are favorable. The observing event is always preceded by indoor programing on topic astronomical. The indoor program goes on regardless of cloud cover.
In addition to the usual star parties, CAAS hosts the Spring National Astronomy Day (NAD) event each year at Pinnacle, typically in April or May. The NAD event includes more extensive programming starting earlier in the day than the normal star party and includes live solar viewing, exhibits, and children’s activities.
Chosen to provide geographical diversity to our events, the Sherwood Sports Complex offers convenience similar to Pinnacle on the opposite side of the metropolitan area and will focus on the brighter night sky objects, such as the major planets and the more prominent constellations, particularly in the Northern sky. The observing event is always preceded by indoor programing on topic astronomical. The indoor program goes on regardless of cloud cover.
Located northeast of Greenbriar, Wooly Hollow is our second darkest site. However, it does not have indoor facilities for presentations, so the program will be canceled in the event of cloudy weather. If uncertain, check the calendar for cancelation an hour before the event. for possible cancellation before traveling. Ample camping and daytime activities are plentiful.