TSP History

The First Three Years: 1979 – 1981

The Texas Star Party was started in 1979 by Deborah Byrd, members of the Austin Astronomical Society, and the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. It was a gathering of 50-100 astronomy enthusiasts for a weekend in August at nearby Davis Mountains State Park. There was observing, comraderie, a Saturday evening speaker, and special Saturday night observing at McDonald Observatory.

On the Ranch: 1982 – Present

Founders David Clark, George Ellis, and Don Garland organized the TSP on Prude Ranch in 1982. The TSP is held each year in late April or May. Astronomy clubs from the Southwest Region of the Astronomical League(SWRAL) and individual volunteers help operate the annual astronomy convention. TSP annual population has grown from 535 attendees in 1982 to more than 800 attendees in 1994.

The TSP relationship with McDonald Observatory and the University of Texas has remained strong throughout the years. TSP has strongly supported the protection of night-time skies from ever-growing light-pollution. This support has included funding public information vehicles regarding light pollution, efficient lighting practices, and exterior-lighting ordinances in the west Texas area.

TSP Light Reduction Project donors raised over $25,000 for activities such as the replacement of various street light fixtures throughout Jeff Davis county and in nearby towns of Fort Davis, Valentine, Marfa, and Alpine. This continuing effort is intended to preserve the dark skies for future TSPs, as well as to protect the viability of McDonald Observatory.

TSP 1997 was held at Alto Frio Baptist Encampment, on the banks of the Frio River, 40 miles north of Uvalde, Texas. 677 people attended.

In 1998, TSP returned to the Prude Ranch.

The Texas Star Party is now operated by Texas Star Party, Inc.  a non-profit corporation.

A History of Our Guest Speakers

The TSP has brought a variety of guest speakers, including Clyde Tombaugh (discoverer of Pluto) and Walter Scott Houston. In addition many amateur astronomershave presented their ideas during the afternoon sessions. We list below some of the professional community (as well as leaders of the amateur community) and the titles of their talks:

  • Curt Anderson: 1987 “The Apache Point Telescope”
  • Brent A Archinal: 1994 “‘Missing’ Star Clusters and the NGC”, 1999 “Like Gold and Silver in Sands in Some Ravine: Star Clusters”, 2005 “A Place Like Home? Huygens Unveils Titan”, 2016 “How to Map the Solar System”
  • Taft Armandroff: 2015 “New Developments with the McDonald Observatory and Giant Magellan Telescope”
  • Halton Arp: 1995 “Quasars Viewed from an X-Ray Perspective”, 2005 “Cosmology – Quasars and the Birth of Galaxies”
  • Thomas Barnes: 1985 “Stellar Radial Velocity Measures: Past, Present, and Future”, 2014 “McDonald Observatory: 75 Years of Excellence”
  • Kelly Beatty: 2007 “Sky & Telescope: Looking Back, Looking Forward”
  • Reta Beebe: 1982 “Rings and Satellites of Jupiter and Saturn”, “Atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn”
  • G Fritz Benedict: 2009 “Nine Steps to Extraterrestrial Life”
  • Bob Berman: 2008 “Astronomy’s Best Mysteries”
  • Richard Berry: 1984 “Amateur Astronomy – Where is it Going?”, 1992 “CCD Astronomy”, 1997 “What CCDs Bring to Amateur Astronomy”, 2018 “Future Shock: The Impact of Imaging on Amateur Astronomy”
  • Richard Binzel: 1983 “Photometry of Asteroids”
  • Bart Bok: 1982 “Our Wonderful Milky Way”
  • John Bortle: 1991 “Great Comets”
  • John W Briggs: 1983 “A Venezuelan Mountaintop Observatory”
  • Geoffrey Burbidge: 1983 “Two Southwestern Observatories”
  • Jim Burnell: 2008 “Seeing the Light: The Nature of Astronomical Color and the Use of Filters in CCD Imaging “
  • Peter Ceravolo: 1988 “The Long White Tube Effect”, 1992 “Optics: How Good Do They Really Need to Be?”, 1994 “Peak-To-Valley vs RMS”
  • Roger N Clark: 1989 “New Methods for Using Your Eyes to Observe Faint Objects”
  • Bryan Cogdell: 2016 “Setting Up a Telescope for Professor Stephen Hawking”
  • Guy Consolmagno: 2010 “Pluto and Planets X: Is Pluto a Planet? And Why Does It Matter?”, “Twenty Five Years of Turning Left: Are We There Yet?”
  • Harold Corwin: 1992 “Galaxy Catalogs and Cataloguers”
  • Robert Cox: 1982 “45 Years of Telescope Making”, “The Maximum Efficiency Telescope”
  • Ken Croswell: 1998 “The Epic Discovery of Alien Solar Systems”
  • Attilla Danko: 2003 “Clouds! I Hate Clouds! An unlikely Story of Astronomy-specific Weather Forecasting”
  • Tippy D’Auria: 1991 “A New Way to Measure Astronomical Distances”, 1994 “Telscope Collimation”
  • Dan Davis: 2010 “From Texas to Tethys: Tectonics Around the Solar System”, “Twenty Five Years of Turning Left: Are We There Yet?”
  • Dennis Di Cicco 1996 “Amateur Astronomers and the CCD Revolution”
  • Terence Dickinson: 2009 “60mm Refractor in the Atacama, and Other Astro-Adventures”
  • John Dobson: 1988 “Bigger Eyes on a Vast Universe”
  • Alan Dressler: 2000 “Origins”
  • Reggie Dufour: 2002 “Those Colorful Nebulae: Cosmochemical Laboratories”
  • Alan Dyer: 2007 “The Great Southern Sky”, 2015 “Nightscapes: How to Take Great Astrophotos Without Spending a Lot of Money, Just Time!”
  • Stephen J Edberg: 1985 “Observing Comet Halley for the IHW”, 2012 “Astronomy in the Real World”
  • Jesse Eichenlaub: 1983 “The Amateur Space Telescope”
  • David Eicher: 1983 “Observing Active Galaxies”, 1989 “The Universe From Your Backyard”, 2005 “The Greatest Deep-Sky Objects Off the Beaten Path”
  • Michael Endl: 2015 “Alien Planets”
  • Fred Espenak: 2015 “Awesome Eclipses: A 2017 Preview”
  • Rick Fienberg: 2002 “Amateur Astronomy in the 21st Century”
  • Timothy Ferris: 1995 “Is the Big Bang Dead?”, 2001 “Seeing in the Dark”
  • Louis A Frank: 1989 “The Comet-Ocean Theory”, 1998 “Small Comet Theory”
  • John S Gallagher: 1988 “Seven Mysteries About Galaxies”
  • Pamela Gay: 2001 “Discovery of Moderate Red-Shift Galaxy Clusters: The New Radio Signpost Method”
  • Stuart Goldman: 1993 “Celestial Immortality”
  • Walter Haas: 1984 “The ALPO Today”, “Peruvian Prospects for Halley’s Comet”
  • Alan Hale: 1996 “The Challenge of Comet Hale-Bopp”
  • Douglas Hall: 1983 “Photoelectric Data Reduction”, “What Can You Do with Photoelectric Photometry?”
  • Tony Hallas: 1990 “Color Techniques for Astrophotography”, 1993 “Journey to Mt Pinos”, 1998 “Through the Picture Window”, 2007 “Evolution of Dynamic Processing”
  • Larry Hardin: 2002 “Optica are to look through not at, but let’s look at them anyway”
  • Joel Harris: 1987 “The Galileo Project”, 1988 “An Indonesian Solar Eclipse”, 1989 “1991 Solar Eclipse – The Big One”
  • William E Harris: 2003 “Under Construction: The Making of a Supergiant Galaxy”
  • Karl Henize: 1982 “Shuttle, Space Lab and Space Astronomy”
  • Ulrich Herrmann: 1982 “The H-R Diagram and its Significance to Amateur Astronomy”, 1983 “Hierarchy of Distance Determination”
  • Paul Hickson: 1993 “Large Liquid Mirror Telescopes”, 1995 “Mysteries of Compact Groups of Galaxies”
  • Delores Hill: 2010 “Meteorites: Keys to Understanding the Solar System…Texas Style”, 2017 “OSIRIS-REx Mission to Bennu and Back: The First U.S. Asteroid Sample Return”
  • Graham Hill: 1998 “Determining Chemical Abundances in Stars”
  • Rik Hill: 2010 “2017 “Confessions of an Asteroid Hunter”
  • Paul W Hodge: 1994 “The Andromeda Galaxy”
  • Walter Scott Houston: 1983 “A Twilight Talk”, 1990 “Evolution of Deep Sky Test Objects”
  • Tim Hunter: 2016 “My life and hard times in Amateur Astronomy”
  • Pranvera Hyseni: 2017 “Astronomy in Kosovo”
  • Chris Impey: 2000 “What We Don’t Know about the Universe”
  • Richard Jakiel: 2006 “Striking Ancient Skies”
  • C Renee James: 2011 “Seven Wonders of the Universe That You Probably Took for Granted”
  • Steven Johnston: 1987 “Making Tilted Component Telscopes”
  • William C Keel: 2011 “Galaxies”
  • Jonathan Kern: 2006 “Einstein’s Legacy:Probing for Gravitational Waves with LIGO”
  • Scot Kleinman: 2004 “Sloan Digital Sky Survey”
  • Sun Kwok: 2003 “Cosmic Butterflies: The Colourful Mysteries of Planetary Nebulae”
  • David Levy: 1985 “Observing in the Shadow of Kitt Peak”, 1997 “A Time For Comets”, 1999 “More Things in Heaven and Earth: Finding Passion in Nature”, 2003 “13,000 Starry Nights”, 2016 “A Night Watchman’s Journey”
  • Zoltan Levay: 2013 “Hubble Image processing: How the Big Boys Do IT”, 2013 “The Hubble Ultra Deep Field”
  • Rachael Livermore: 2014 “Chasing the First Galaxies with the Largest Telescopes on Earth”
  • Jimi Lowrey/Stephen Odewahn: 2011 “The SweetPea: Harvesting the Edges of the Sloan Survey”
  • Stephen P Maran: 1985 “Through Space and Time with Halley’s Comet”
  • Brian Marsden: 1990 “Has the Hot Seat Gotten Any Hotter?”
  • Janet Mattei: 1991 “Amateur Astronomer Participation in Variable Star Research”
  • Ben Mayer: 1984 “The ‘Stellar Frame’ Connection”
  • Alex McConahay: 2018 “Which Way Is Up? Musings about Motion and Direction in the Universe”
  • Fulvio Melia: 2006 “The Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy”
  • Stephanie McLaughlin: 2005 “Amateur Observing Opportunities for the NASA Deep Impact Mission to Comet 9P/Tempel 1”
  • Larry Mitchell: 2004 “Globular Clusters – TSP Advanced Visual Observing”
  • Robert Mitchell: 2005 “Cassini/Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan”
  • Andrew Murrell: 2007 “One of the Clouds You Would LIKE to See: The SMC”
  • Al Nagler: 2012 “Giant Eyepieces that Swallow Spacecraft”
  • Jack Newton: 1984 “Improved Cold Camera Photography”, 2009 “Astro Imaging with DSLR Cameras”
  • Don Nicholson: 2008 “Mount Wilson Then, The People, Personalities, and Science”
  • Stephen J O’Meara: 1986 (Keynote Address), 1994 “Atmospheric Phenomena”, 1997 “The Secret Epitaph”, 1998 “Genesis at the Outer Limits”, 1999 “O Night Divine: A Tribute to Walter Scott Houston”, 2001 “Moon Watching: It’s a Blast! Correlating Volcanic Eruptions to Lunar Cycles”, 2006 “The Art of Seeing the Invisible”
  • Don Olson: 2013 “Tales of a Celestial Sleuth”
  • Donald Parker: 1989 “High Resolution Planetary Photography”, 1993 “The CCD Revolution – A Cure For Darkroom Blues?”
  • Don Pettit: 2009 “Amateur Astronomy from the International Space Station”, 2017 “Scientific advances from what appears to be goofing around in space”
  • Sandra Preston: 2000 “A New Astronomy Science Center for Texas and the Nation”
  • Robert Reeves: 2012 “Exploring the Moon with Robert Reeves”
  • Judit Ries: 2013 “Cosmic Collisions”
  • Bradley Schaefer: 2002 “How far can you See?”
  • Gary Seronik: 2000 “Little Victories: Optimizing a Newtonian Reflector for Planetary and Deep-Sky Viewing”, 2004 “How To Win the War Against Telescope Thermals”
  • Matthew Shetrone: 2013 “The APOGEE Survey: Uncovering the Secret Life of the Milky Way”
  • Randy Shivak: 2018 “Solar imaging and Processing”
  • Eugene Shoemaker: 1992 “Comet Impacts and Mass Extinctions”
  • Mike Simmons: 2016 “Astronomers without Borders”
  • Mike Simonsen: 2011 “The Unpredictable Deep Sky”
  • Brian Skiff: 1983 “Integrated Colors and Magnitudes of Open Clusters”, 1985 “BM Scorpii: Not Your Regular Star!”, 1988 “The Scope of Amateur Astronomy”, 1989 “Forgotten Fundamentals of Dark Adaptation”, 1996 “Sunspots, Starspots, and Tomorrow’s Weather”
  • Harlan Smith: 1982 “Proposed 300 Inch Telescope”, 1983 “Two Southwestern Observatories”
  • Chris Sneden: 1988 “8-Meter Spectroscopic Survey Telescope at McDonald”
  • Dick Sramek: 1982 “Recent Observations with the VLA”
  • Jack Sulentic: 1991 “Exploring Quasars and Peculiar Galaxies”
  • Wil Tirion: 2004 “Charting the Heavens – The History of Stellar Cartography”
  • Clyde Tombaugh: 1982 “Out of the Darkness – Pluto”, 1987 , 1991 “Dawn of Space: Years at Lowell and White Sands”
  • Mike Urban: 1986 “Voyager II Encounters Uranus”
  • Gerard de Vaucouleurs: 1984 “How Do You Know Where You Are Going?”
  • Ray Villard: 1990 “Hubble Space Telescope”, 1999 “HST: The Story Behind the Pictures”, 2012 “Hubble’s Two Decades of Discovery”
  • Charlie Warren: 2015 “21 Years of Amateur Astronomy”
  • Dennis Webb: 2014 “Remembering Halton (Chip) Arp”
  • Doug Welch: 2008 ” Supernovae Light Echoes – Seeing Supernovae Again for the First Time”
  • Craig Wheeler: 1996 “Black Holes and X-Ray Binaries”
  • Arthur L Whipple: 1994 “Past, Present, Future of Comet Shoemaker/Levy 9”
  • Bob Williams: 1995 “Recent Research from Hubble Space Telescope”
  • Donald Winget: 1997 “White Dwarf Stars: Cosmic Clocks”
  • Bill Wren: 2014 “The Future of Lighting and Dark Sky Places”
  • Richard S Wright, Jr: 2018 “Adventures of an Accidental Astronomer”

History by year

The following is an annual history of TSP dates, attendance, and speakers:

  • May 26-30, 1982 [535] Reta Beebe, Bart Bok, Robert Cox, Karl Henize, Harlan Smith, Dick Sramek, Clyde Tombaugh
  • June 8-12, 1983 Richard Binzel, Geoffrey Burbidge, Douglas Hall, Ulrich Herrmann, Walter Scott Houston, Jesse Eichenlaub, Harlan Smith
  • May 30-June 3, 1984 Richard Berry, Ben Mayer, Jack Newton, Gerard de Vaucouleurs
  • May 13-19, 1985 [368] Thomas Barnes, Stephen J Edberg, David Levy, Stephen P Maran
  • May 5-10, 1986 [319] Stephen J O’Meara, Mike Urban
  • May 25-30, 1987 [497] Curt Anderson, Joel Harris, Steven Johnston, Clyde Tombaugh
  • May 8-15, 1988 [617] John Dobson, John S Gallagher, Brian Skiff, Chris Sneden
  • May 28-June 4, 1989 [650?] Richard Binzel, Roger N Clark, Louis A Frank, Donald Parker
  • May 20-27, 1990 [650?] Tony Hallas, Brian Marsden, Ray Villard, Walter Scott Houston
  • May 5-11, 1991 [524] John Bortle, Janet Mattei, Jack Sulentic, Clyde Tombaugh
  • April 26-May 3, 1992 [621] Richard Berry, Peter Ceravolo, Harold Corwin, Eugene Shoemaker
  • May 16-23, 1993 [702] Stuart Goldman, Tony Hallas, Paul Hickson, Donald Parker
  • May 8-15, 1994 [851] Brent A Archinal, Tippy D’Auria, Stephen J O’Meara, Paul W Hodge, Arthur L Whipple
  • May 21-28, 1995 [713] Paul Hickson, Timothy Ferris, Bob Williams, Halton Arp
  • May 12-19, 1996 [661] Dennis Di Cicco, Alan Hale, Brian Skiff, Craig Wheeler
  • May 4-11, 1997 [676] Richard Berry, David Levy, Stephen O’Meara, Donald Winget
  • April 19-26, 1998 [614] Ken Croswell, Louis Frank, Tony Hallas, Graham Hill, Stephen O’Meara
  • May 9-16, 1999 [594] Brent A Archinal, David Levy, Stephen O’Meara, Ray Villard
  • April 30-May 7, 2000 [655] Alan Dressler, Chris Impey, Sandra Preston, Gary Seronik
  • May 13-20, 2001 [755] Pamela Gay, Timothy Ferris, Stephen O’Meara
  • May 5-12, 2002 [595] Reggie Dufour, Rick Fienberg, Larry Hardin, Bradley Schaefer
  • April 27-May 4, 2003 [529] Attilla Danko, William E Harris, Sun Kwok, David Levy
  • May 16-23, 2004 [654] Scott Kleinman, Larry Mitchell, Gary Seronik, Wil Tirion
  • May 1-8, 2005 [548] Brent Archinal, Halton C Arp, David J. Eicher, Stephanie McLaughlin, Robert T. Mitchell
  • April 23-30, 2006 [501] Richard Jakiel, Jonathan Kern, Fulvio Melia, Stephen O’Meara
  • May 13-20, 2007 [581] Kelly Beatty, Alan Dyer, Tony Hallas, Andrew Murrell
  • June 1-8, 2008 [518] Bob Berman, Jim Burnell, Don Nicholson, Doug Welch
  • April 19-26, 2009 [481] G Fritz Benedict, Terence Dickinson, Jack Newton, Don Pettit
  • May 9-16, 2010 [457] Guy Consolmagno, Dan Davis, Dolores Hill
  • May 29-June 5, 2011 [478] C Renee James, William C Keel, Jimi Lowrey/Stephen Odewahn, Mike Simonsen
  • April 15-22, 2012 [432] Steve Edberg, Al Nagler, Robert Reeves, Ray Villard
  • May 5-12, 2013 [502] Zoltan Levay, Don Olson, Judit Ries, Matthew Shetrone
  • May 25-June 1, 2014 [473] Tom Barnes, Rachael Livermore, Dennis Webb, Bill Wren
  • May 10-17, 2015 [432] Taft Armandroff, Alan Dyer, Michael Endl, Fred Espenak, Charlie Warren
  • May 1-8, 2016 [473] Brent Archinal, Bryan Cogdell, Tim Hunter, David Levy, Mike Simmons
  • May 21-28, 2017 [427] Dolores Hill, Rik Hill, Pranvera Hyseni, Don Petit
  • May 5-13, 2018 [476] Richard Berry, Alex McConahay, Randy Shivak, Richard S Wright, Jr

The Lone Star Gazer Award

Make a suggestion to us for a future recipient of this dedicated observer award.

For Personal achievement, accomplishment, expertise:
1982 Walter Haas
1983 John Wagoner
1984 Oscar Monnig
1985 David Levy
1986 Brian Skiff
1987 David Eicher
1988 Robert Reeves
1989 Dr. Don Parker
1990 Kathy Machin
1991 Dr. Janet Mattei
1992 Dave Higgins
1993 Larry Mitchell
1994 Barbara Wilson
1995 Jason Ware
1996 Ed Szczepanski
1997 Ft Bend Asteroid Discovery Team (Bill Dillon, Keith Rivich, Dennis Borgman, John Harrison, Randy Pepper, Frances Smith)
1998 Howard Brewington
1999 Amelia Goldberg
2000 David Healy
2001 Stephen O'Meara
2002 Dave Tosteson
2003 Dennis Webb
2004 Jay McNeil
2005 Steve Coe
2006 George Kepple and Glen Sanner
2007 Andrew Murrell
2008 Becky Ramotowski
2009 Alvin Huey
2010 Jim Chandler
2011 Jimi Lowrey
2012 Matt Delevoryas
2013 Al Kelly
2014 Jason Adamik
2015 Tim Parson
2016 Brent  Archninal
2017 Don Petit
2018 Jeff Kanipe

The Omega Centauri Award

Make a suggestion to us for a future recipient of this dedicated service-towards-astronomy award.

For Public awareness and/or promotion of astronomy:
1983 Paul Maley
1984 Debbie Byrd
1985 George Ellis
1986 Don & Shelly Garland
1987 Carol Rodgers
1988 John Dobson
1989 David Clark
1990 Walter Scott Houston
1991 Amelia & Steve Goldberg
1992 Richard Berry
1993 Mike Dennis
1994 Stephen J. O'Meara
1995 John Wagoner
1996 Ed Flaspoehler
1997 David Levy
1998 Bob Gent
1999 Jackie Wade
2000 Candace Pratt & Carol Cole
2001 Tom Clark
2002 Bob & Lisa Summerfield
2003 Attilla Danko
2004 Richard Brown
2005 TSP Amateur Radio Team (Steve Coleman, Clyde Heath, and Larry Slay, George Huling, Tom McDermott)
2006 Larry Mitchell
2007 Dennis Borgman
2008 John Rudd
2009 Terence Dickinson
2010 NA
2011 NA
2012 Perry and Patricia Remaklus
2013 Don Olson and Russell Doescher
2014 Jeff Barton
2015 Deborah Moran
2016 Gary Carter
2017 Joe Khalaf
2018 Fort Bend Astronomy Club

TexStaPa – An Asteroid Named for Texas Star Party

At TSP 1996, Brian Skiff (see above) named one of the asteroids that he had previously discovered. Texstapa (4932) is 1984 EA1, discovered on March 9, 1984 by Brian at the Anderson Mesa Station of the Lowell Observatory. Named for the Texas Star Party on the occasion of its 18th anniversary in May 1996. Founded in 1979 by Deborah Byrd, the event has since become one of the largest meetings of amateur astronomers in North America. It provides amateur astronomers with the opportunity for visual observing, imaging, and fellowship under clear, dark Texas skies.