College Students

Observers & Milky Way at Night

Observers & Milky Way at Night

Texas Star Party

Welcomes College Students!

Join us for your astronomy adventure
April 28-May 5, 2019!

The 41st annual Texas Star Party is hosted in west Texas on the magnificent Prude Ranch, a 3500 acre mile-high ranch located six miles northwest of Fort Davis on Highway 118… 12 miles on the same road from McDonald Observatory.

Darkest Skies!

When amateur astronomers get together to observe the stars, they compare their skies to those they once saw on a remote Texas ranch … Little wonder! The skies in the Davis Mountains of west Texas are the darkest found anywhere in North America.

Where else, after all, could one find so magnificent a view of Omega Centauri? High in the south and suspended against a sky that is the color of ink, the cluster is so spectacular through your eyepiece, you almost think you can reach out and touch it!

Where else does the Sagittarius Milky Way rise over the mountains with so vivid a presence that you might mistake it for an ominous storm cloud?

It has to be Texas! The perfect place for the perfect star party … a huge gathering of more than 500 of the most serious astrophotographers and observers in the United States and beyond … the culmination of an odyssey that is worthy of all the dedication and stamina it takes to get here and to return – year, after year, after year!

View some photos of TSP, or check out the new TSP movies The TSP Experience and Camaraderie at TSP !

Continuing for 2019! TSP waives Registration Fee for college students!

Are you a full-time college student, and age 26 or younger?

If so you are eligible to have your $80 registration fee waived, simply show up at the gate and show your ID and proof of full-time status!

Where will I stay?

There are a variety of accommodations on the Ranch.

  • There is plenty of camping space ($16/person/night in 2019) available on the Ranch, with bathhouse/restrooms nearby.
  • There might be an opening for covered housing or RV site on the Ranch. You can see (starting In February) a list of our current openings. Prices here. (Covered housing on Prude Ranch seems more expensive, but it includes your lunch and dinner meals!)
  • Stay off the Ranch, and park outside front gate each evening. See list of accommodations at bottom of page here. There is also camping (with plenty of shade trees) at Davis Mountains State Park  (just 1 mile away)

How do I Register?

It’s a simple 3-step process.

  1. Go to My TSP Account to create/submit your TSP Registration Request form.
    We’ll email you a Registration confirmation email when you’re approved.
    For 2019, all (college student) requests which include either camping or off-site accommodations will be approved!
  2. Wait until you receive your Registration confirmation emailThen submit your TSP registration online (or by mail) at My TSP Account before April 1st!   Provide proof of 2019 full-time enrollment when you arrive, ie class schedule or student ID.
  3. Staying on the Ranch? If so, then also print and mail your Prude Ranch Reservation Form with your deposit.
    If you are camping, you can omit this step and wait to pay your camping fees when you arrive at Prude Ranch.

Do I need to bring a telescope?

No telescope is required but at minimum you should bring some good binoculars.  Tripod-mount the binoculars if possible.

If you are traveling with other college friends, try to bring a telescope to share amongst yourselves.

A star chart or planisphere will be very helpful to finding your way around these star-crowded dark skies.

The vendors at TSP have a variety of merchandise available for sale. Also you can pick up some good bargains at the TSP Swap meet on Friday afternoon.

Each person should bring a red light flashlight. The ground can be treacherous with rocks, cables, tent guys/stakes.
Keep the light pointed at the ground and not in peoples eyes. Obtain (or make) your red flashlight before you come to TSP! A single-cell flashlight should be adequate brightness for observing activities.  More than 2 cells is likely too bright.

Check out our what to bring/orientation page.

Follow Star Party Etiquette!

You may be able to walk around the observing fields (imagine a Sea Of Telescopes!) and visit with your neighbors to look through their telescopes. Some of our attendees will be delighted to share views through their telescope.

Note that many of our attendees are serious amateurs here on their own vacation and prefer to focus on their personal project such as photography or observing program. Try not to disturb them, especially if they are “heads down”.

When you approach someone, please look first to see if it is appropriate to disturb them. Then (if appropriate) ask them for permission to look through their telescope.

When looking through a telescope, do not physically touch the telescope (or eyepiece!) without first asking.

Interesting questions might be:  What object you are viewing?  What type of object is it?  What constellation is it located?  What is the size of telescope?  What type of telescope is it?  If the image is blurry or not sharp, ask how to focus the eyepiece?

If you are fortunate to be able to talk with an imager (a person taking photographs through telescope and storing onto computer), you might ask more about how this is done. Computer programs?  What type of camera?

Use a red light flashlight to find your way around. The ground can be treacherous with rocks, cables, tent guys/stakes.
Keep the light pointed at the ground and not in peoples eyes. Obtain (or make) your red flashlight before you come to TSP! A single-cell flashlight should be adequate brightness for use in the observing fields.

Can me and my friends party?

With 400-500 attendees in one place, TSP has found that it helps to have some rules so everyone have the best possible time to view these beautiful dark skies. We have lighting restrictions (including no driving on ranch at night), as well as limits on smoking, drinking, and music You should read our rules, so you are aware of what is expected.

What is there to do? (So much to do, so little time!)

At TSP we have lots of activities including afternoon talks by amateurs, premier evening speakers, astronomy vendors with lots of products for sale, bus tours to McDonald Observatory, our own TSP FM Radio station… even a ham radio station where you can talk across the world!  Read about our activities. View our schedule.

Check out this great video of  Chelsea Parler and Blaise Baldeschwiler’s  Adventure to TSP and all the great things they did while in the area!

Want something to do at night? Check out our Observing Programs (most will get you a free pin when you turn in your observations!)

What’s to see in the area? Check out our sightseeing page.