Explore the Stars Program - Star Parties

Observatory Trail


The Explore the Stars program is made up of a group of amateur astronomers from across southern California, who bring the wonders of the night sky to more than one hundred stargazers. Just a short drive from many of the light-polluted cities, these star parties provide visitors an opportunity to see rare views of the night sky. It brings clear sky views in close range with powerful telescoped and knowledgeable amateur astronomers. This experience is as entertaining and educational, as it is memorable for visitors of all ages.

Make plans to attend one of these free Star Parties - Conducted on Friday and Saturday nights once a month during the spring, summer, and fall. Party goers can attend both nights or just one night. If planning to camp in the Observatory Campground, camping spaces are on a first come, first serve basis or you make reservations in advance at www.recreation.gov.  

The nightly camping fee at Observatory Campground is $15 for a single site, $30 per night for a double unit, and $5 per night for an extra vehicle. Observatory Campground has accessible sites, flush toilets, and coin operated hot showers.  RV hookups are not available.  Plan to bring water for drinking and cooking.  Visit this link for more information on Observatory Campground.

Limited parking is available, plan to arrive early if not camping and only attending the Star Party. Free interpretive programs take place on Saturday nights in the campground’s amphitheater and begin at dusk.


Explore the Stars - 2020 Star Party Schedule

April 24 & 25  


3rd quarter moon

May 15 & 16   


new moon

June - none



July 24 & 25


new moon

August 21 & 22 


3rd quarter moon

September 18 & 19


new moon   

October 16 & 17


 new moon

Explore the Stars is a joint program administered by the U.S. Forest Service and local astronomers.  We welcome amateur astronomer volunteers regardless of club affiliation, and can provide limited reserved parking for volunteers who sign up in advance, bring telescopes and participate. To volunteer, please visit this web link:  http://www.nanzscience.com/explore/index.html
Additional Information: The dark skies of Palomar Mountain are what make Star Parties so popular. Part of the Observatory Campground has been converted into an "astronomy-friendly" environment where no bright lights are permitted in the campground after 9 P.M.
Types of objects you will see:
  Whole galaxies and billions of stars.
Globular Clusters
  Colorful and active gas clusters, often surrounding millions of stars.
Planetary Nebulae
  The result of stars blasting their outer gaseous shells.
Supernova Remnants
  The dramatic results of stars that have combusted through a collection of energy and gasses that it can no longer maintain.
Double Stars
  Beautiful double stars whose companions are made up of various colors: baby blues, oranges, golds, and greens.
The Moon and Planets
  The Moon is an impressive sight in a telescope. Jupiter, Saturn, and other planets will be viewed as conditions permit. 
Questions and comments about this program may be directed to:
Cleveland National Forest
Palomar Ranger District
1634 Black Canyon Road
Ramona, California 92065
(760) 788-0250