The 2024 Statewide Star Party, a night of miraculous and extraordinary magic

April 10, 2024

By Ella Howie, Education & Outreach Intern

TLC hosted a Statewide Star Party, an official NC Science Festival event, at Three Bears Preserve with Raleigh Astronomy Club. Photo: Olivia Garcia
Stargazers of all ages were excited to learn about the night sky, and receive special eclipse glasses! Photo: Olivia Garcia

The sounds of toddlers excitedly exclaiming “Telescopes! Telescopes!” is one of my favorite moments as a TLC intern this semester. Similarly, my inner monologue echoed their sentiment for telescopes, and this scene brilliantly captured the excitement and fascination for outer-worldly exploration. It seems our wonder for cosmic exploration never truly fades, as the crowd gathered for the 2024 Statewide Star Party was comprised of all ages of star enthusiasts.

As a first-timer, watching local astronomy experts gather and educate instilled this human feeling of curiosity around what is truly going on in this dark void I have never really paid attention to. As I peered into a telescope to see one big circle surrounded by four smaller circles, I could not rationalize that what I was seeing was Jupiter. Other celestial wonders included Orion’s belt, the Pleiades cluster, both Dippers, and the North Star, all adorning the night sky and each adding to the magic of the evening.

While staring into the night sky, I was unknowingly witnessing the main star of the show, the Raleigh Astronomy Club, who made this experience out of this world. Sharing their talent, passion, and knowledge with immense clarity, connection, and compassion to the broader public, they connected attendees to science in an easily accessible and exciting way. For those wanting to delve deeper into cosmic exploration, you can learn more and get involved here.

Being able to help contribute to the Star Party as a part of the Education and Outreach team was a true learning process. From closely (and nervously) monitoring the weather forecast to researching how to cut Oreos into moon phases, communication and teamwork were paramount. Leading excellent rounds of Bat-Moth (an ecofriendly take on Marco Polo) and helping guide the night hike, left an impression that will carry and reflect on as I continue my academics in environmental studies. Although our crowd was smaller, fostering the next generation of astronomers was beyond justification as to why citizen science matters.

PINES fellow KJ leading the Oreo moon phase station. Photo: TLC Staff

When we started the event the sky seemed to be a complete blanket of clouds, but as miracles tend to happen, there was a breakthrough at sunset, creating the perfect night for stargazing. I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Kayla Ebert for arranging this event and being an excellent mentor who I have had the pleasure of working with. Additionally, the Kidzu Kids Museum, and all of the wonderful volunteers who came out and made this possible.

The 2024 Star Party was more than an event but a reminder of the countless mysteries and unknowns that await our exploration. With more Star Parties on the horizon, I hope this event was as enlightening and inspiring for attendees as it was for me. Together, we can continue to explore and educate on the topics that matter, unified under one night sky.

From left to right: Volunteer & Outreach Associate Amaya Horner, Communications Associate Olivia Garcia, Senior Communications Manager Cara Lewis, Senior Education & Outreach Manager Kayla Ebert, and Education & Outreach Intern Ella Howie. Photo: Hanna Camptella
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