Nelson County is celebrating its Dark Skies from June 21 through December 31, 2022. We encourage residents and visitors to tap into their inner astronomer and admire the breathtaking views of these stargazing destinations.

Leave your flashlights behind and look for constellations, wish on a shooting star, and dream of the mysteries that lie beyond the Milky Way. Local hospitality businesses are creating and promoting places and events that preserve and protect our Dark Skies, such as specials, packages and events for viewing astronomical wonders.

events-locations-for-astronomical-wonders

October 15 | 1 to 4pm

Woodridge Farm Brewery

Join local area amateur astronomers and their powerful telescopes in celebrating the dark skies of Nelson County at one of our Fall Star Parties. The Star Party at Wood Ridge will be held on Wednesday, October 19 or Thursday, October 20 – whichever day has the best weather conditions and clarity for stargazing!

There will be a laser tour of the night sky, as well as the observing of galaxies, globular clusters and the beautiful star fields of the Milky Way, all beginning with a presentation taking place at 8:30 P.M.

Dress warmly, bring a lawn chair, and stay as long as you’d like!

Please note that while this viewing is scheduled for Wednesday, it may be moved to Thursday if viewing conditions are not good on Friday. This decision will be made after 6pm on Tuesday and we will update this site with any date changes.

The star party will take place if clear, mostly clear or some clouds from time to time is forecast on the night scheduled and announced. The organizers reserve the right to cancel the event entirely if mostly cloudy, cloudy or rainy weather is forecast on each night of the star party weekend.

October 19 (rain/cloudy date October 20) | 8:30pm

Wood Ridge Farm Brewery

Weather permitting, solar viewing will take place with two telescopes set up for solar viewing outside the patio.

(Note: The first announcement about whether or not this event will take place will be on Saturday, October 8th. The second and final announcement will be made after 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday, October 12th, The weather forecast for the date of solar viewing (Saturday, October 15th) must be for partly cloudy skies or better in order for the event to take place.)

October 21 (rain/cloudy date October 22) | 8:30pm

Silverback Distillery

Join local area amateur astronomers and their powerful telescopes in celebrating the dark skies of Nelson County at one of our Fall Star Parties. The Star Party at Silverback will be held on Friday, October 21 or Saturday, October 22 – whichever day has the best weather conditions and clarity for stargazing!

There will be a laser tour of the night sky, as well as the observing of galaxies, globular clusters and the beautiful star fields of the Milky Way, all beginning with a presentation taking place at 8:30 P.M.

Dress warmly, bring a lawn chair, and stay as long as you’d like!

Please note that while this viewing is scheduled for Friday, it may be moved to Saturday if viewing conditions are not good on Friday. This decision will be made after 6pm on Thursday and we will update this site with any date changes.

The star party will take place if clear, mostly clear or some clouds from time to time is forecast on the night scheduled and announced. The organizers reserve the right to cancel the event entirely if mostly cloudy, cloudy or rainy weather is forecast on each night of the star party weekend.

October 28 | 6 to 9pm

Blue Ridge Tunnel – Eastern Trailhead

Have you ever wanted to explore a mid-19th century rail tunnel after dark? Nelson County Parks and Recreation is teaming up with Blue Mountain Brewery again to bring the spooky out again for our 2nd Annual Tunnel After Dark Event. The event held at the iconic Blue Ridge Tunnel after sunset will be in conjunction with Blue Mountain’s Concealed Darkness beer release which showcases the picture worthy Western Portal on the label.

We will set the perfect ambiance lining the nearly one mile tunnel and accessible Eastern Trail with luminary bags. The event will also raise food and monetary funds to support the Nelson County Pantry just in time for the holidays.

The East Trailhead will be closed 12:00pm-5:30pm for event preparation.  The west trail will be open until 4:00pm when it will then be closed for event.

The event is only accessible through the East Trailhead and the East Trailhead parking lot.

October 28 | 6 to 10pm

Veritas Vineyard & Winery

Celebrate the harvest at Veritas! Enjoy live music, dinner, and star-gazing. Featuring music from Apple Butter Soul, great company, and a casual harvest-inspired dinner prepared by our chef. We’ll be serving station-style dinner and selling wine by the bottle while you enjoy the autumn weather and music.

After the sun sets, experience the Dark Skies of Nelson County. Purchase tickets online.

VERITAS VINEYARD & WINERY
151 Veritas Lane
Afton, VA 22920
540-456-8000
www.veritaswines.com

November 18 – November 19 | 7pm to 7pm

James River State Park: Shelter #4/IDA Viewing Area

This is a unique, two-night opportunity that only comes once a year and will be the largest gathering of astronomers at the park. Our astronomy clubs will have telescopes available for an up-close view of planets and galaxies, but you may also bring your own telescope to explore these amazing wonders of the night sky with our knowledgeable staff as your guide. We will also have programs and presentations to help you find your way through the galaxy. We promise you a stellar experience at James River State Park!

Event Details

December 16 (rain/cloudy date December 17) | 8:30pm

Rockfish Valley Community Center

Join local area amateur astronomers and their powerful telescopes in celebrating the dark skies of Nelson County at the second of our seasonal Star Parties! Enjoy a laser tour of the night sky, as well as observing of galaxies, globular clusters and the beautiful star fields of the Milky Way, all beginning with an indoor presentation taking place in Rockfish University at 8:30 pm. Coffee from Trager Brothers Coffee will be available. Dress warmly, bring a lawn chair, and stay as long as you’d like!

RSVP opportunity will be available closer to the event date. This and all future observing programs will be free to the general public, but any donations are welcome in order to support the RVCC’s continuing education programs.

Dark Skies Events and Packages

STARGAZING EXPERIENCE at LOVE RIDGE MOUNTAIN LODGING
Stay at Love Ridge Mountain Lodging and enjoy the delights of viewing the night sky with little ambient light. Borrow our stargazing kit including special binoculars, star map, star guide and flashlight to take in the night skies for an evening of family fun.

STAR PARTY AT HAZY MOUNTAIN
November 25th | 7:30 – 9:30pm
Join us on 11/25/22 to enjoy an evening of star gazing for Nelson County’s Dark Skies event series. For guests who are over the age of 21, will be offering a star gazing bundle which includes a bottle of Hazy Mountain Red, a logo blanket, and 2 souvenir glasses. We also will be serving hot apple cider for those who are amateur astronomers. Bring your family, your partner, or just yourself to enjoy this evening at Hazy Mountain.

DARK MATTER BEER at WILD MAN DANS
Stop by WildManDan’s Brewery and check out their Dark Matter Black IPA. This IPA has a light chocolate, coffee and caramel sweetness with a citrusy, tropical, resinous, and melon character. Fresh Virginia hops.

International Dark-Sky Association

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has many resources to assist the public in learning more about darks skies. To help spread the word about light pollution, IDA offers four topic-specific brochures and a general information brochure which you can download as PDFs.

Skywatch from Blue Ridge Outdoors
dark-skies-participants
observing-windows-astronomy

An observing window is defined as a period of time (allowing for observing conditions) that provides at least 1 and 1/2 hours of observing after astronomical twilight, which occurs one and one half hours after sunset, and which takes place when the Moon provides less than 25% illumination.

Observing sessions or activities should take place only when clear, mostly clear or a few clouds from time to time are forecast, based on both the National Weather Service and the Clear Sky Clock. Because of these variables, scheduled observing sessions or activities should be planned with a rain date in mind, which should be announced no later than 6:00 pm on the day prior to an event.

  1. Visit the Charlottesville Astronomical Society Website
  2. Go to the Sky Conditions drop-down menu and choose the Clear Sky Clock for the Observatory on Fan Mountain – a tool used by amateur astronomers for a two-day look-ahead at upcoming observing conditions. It can be a bit on the conservative side but can be useful for re-scheduling an event or activity, if necessary. Then use the Weather Forecast tool in conjunction with the Clear Sky Clock.

Nautical Twilight (an hour after sunset): Observing the planets and brighter objects, plus satellites

Astronomical Twilight (an hour and a half after sunset): Nelson’s dark skies make their appearance, with the caveats mentioned above.

observing-windows

August 17 –  31
September 15 – 29
October 14 – 29
November 10 – 27
December 10 – 26

resources-for-stargazers
educational space videos