Nelson County will celebrate 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.

Dark Skies Events

July 1 (rain/cloudy date July 2) | 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 first 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!

Note: The Star Party will only take place if the skies are clear, mostly clear or a few clouds from time to time. Please check the National Weather Forecast on or after 6pm the evening before the event (as well as the hour-by-hour forecast for Nellysford.) If it’s a no go for Friday, the program will be held on Saturday instead – weather permitting.

Please click here to RSVP.  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. As soon as we have the weather forecast for Friday vs. Saturday, we’ll email all the RSVPs to confirm the date!

June 25 | 9 to 10pm

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

Learn more about the importance of dark skies while we explore our vast and endless universe with our telescopes. We might observe planets, galaxies, or star clusters as we search for the amazing wonders of the night sky.

Event Details

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 3 | 11:30am – 7pm

Blue Mountain Barrel House

Celebrate the newest release of Dark Hollow Reserve, Concealed Darkness. Bottles and variants available for purchase while supplies last. Whole-hog pig roast and other food options available for purchase. Live music all day.

Event Details

Dark Skies Participants

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Observing Windows

An observing window is defined as a span of dates that allows for at least 1 ½ hours of observing after astronomical twilight (1 ½ hours after sunset, and when the Moon is at less than 25% illumination. Ideally, and depending on the season, the humidity should be relatively low as well, and with the wind at less than 8mph. Occasionally, favorable observing conditions with clear skies, low humidity, and light to variable winds (3 – 6 mph) and the Moon at less than 50% illumination may allow for programs to take place slightly outside an observing window.

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.

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.

  • Visit the Charlottesville Astronomical Society Website
  • 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.

4/19 – 5/5
5/18 – 6/4
6/17 – 7/3
7/18 – 8/2
8/17 – 8/31
9/15 – 9/29
10/15-10/29

Resources for Stargazers & Budding Astronomers