Cedar Key plays host to the stars

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By Kellie Parkin

The Cedar Key Star Party is the event of the season, according to City Commissioner Sue Colson. “It’s the most enjoyable experience,” she said.

The Star Party is a week long event organized by the National Public Observatory’s Stars-n-Parks program to promote enjoyment of the wonders of the heavens. The annual event takes place at multiple locations around the island and is sponsored by several different organizations including Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Park Service, and St. Clair Whitman Citizen Support Organization.

“It’s very loose – not formal at all,” Colson said. “People are right there with the telescopes to tell you what you’re looking for, and they’re all very patient. Even well-behaved small children are welcomed and encouraged to attend.”

The star-gazing celebration kicks off this Monday at the beach with daytime observations at City Park each morning through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Visitors can catch glimpses of sunspots, flares, and moonscapes that are invisible to the naked eye.

The Cedar Key Museum State Park will sponsor two public viewing nights at the museum grounds from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 23 and Friday, Feb. 27. Astronomers will share their high-powered telescopes and talk about the planets, constellations, and faraway galaxies that make up our universe. These two events begin with a slideshow followed by a lecture, stargazing opportunities, and free refreshments from the St. Clair Whitman Citizen Support Organization.

Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. there will be Night Nature and Binocular Stargazing Hayrides at the Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve. If the skies are too cloudy for stargazing on Wednesday, hayrides will take place Thursday evening instead.

All astronomical experiences, including hayrides, are free and open to the public. Reservations are required for the hayrides and can be made by calling the park office at 543-5567.

Cedar Key‘s bright skies – due to a lack of light pollution and relative isolation – make it an ideal place to enjoy the stars. “We are lucky enough to live in an area where you can see the real thing,” Colson said. “It’s reality stars – no planetarium needed.”

For more information about the star party, call (352)-543-5567 or (352)-543-5350.