We encourage residents and visitors to tap into their inner astronomer and admire the breathtaking views of the Dark Skies of Nelson County.

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 Packages and News

Visible planets and night sky March 2023
Be sure to check out the monthly happenings in the sky!!!

Glenthorne Cottage: Dark Skies Package
Leave your flashlights behind and look for constellations, wish on a shooting star, and dream of the mysteries that lie beyond the Milky Way. Join us to celebrate Glenthorne’s pristine night sky, with an add-on of our Dark Skies Package. Cuddle up in a double hammock or Adirondack chair around a private fire-pit outfitted with a s’mores basket. And channel your inner astronomer by gazing at the stars through our Celestron AZ Refractor Telescope, all part of our Dark Skies Package.

Love Ridge: Stargazing Experience
Stay at Love Ridge and enjoy the delights of viewing the night sky with little ambient light. This Package is perfect to take in the night skies for an evening of family fun. Borrow our stargazing kit including special binoculars, star map, star guide and flashlight. You will also get two bags of local popcorn and information on prime stargazing locations along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Must-See Celestial Events 2023: Astronomy Calendar
In 2023, we’ll see a bright comet, a rare hybrid solar eclipse, and other unique astronomical events. Check the following list and circle the best nights for stargazing in your calendar!


March 17 | 7:30pm

Rockfish Valley Community Center

Join local area amateur astronomers and their powerful telescopes in celebrating the dark skies of Nelson County at our Spring Equinox Star Party, to be held on Friday, March 17th or Saturday, March 18th–whichever day has the best weather conditions and clarity for stargazing!

There will be a laser tour of the night sky. We’ll also be observing galaxies, globular clusters and the beautiful star fields of the Milky Way, all beginning with an indoor presentation taking place at 7:30 P.M.

Coffee from Trager Brothers Coffee will be available, so 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 4pm on Thursday, 3/16, and we will update all RSVPs with either a reminder, or a notice of date change, on Friday morning.

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. If this happens, all RSVPs will be notified by email.

If you would like to be notified of updates/date changes, please register to RSVP. The event is pay-what-you-will, and all proceeds support educational programming at RVCC.

October 27 | 6 to 9pm

Blue Ridge Tunnel | East (Afton) Entrance

The Blue Ridge Tunnel is staying open late to help give you a spooky start to your Halloween weekend! Come by the Afton entrance to the tunnel to enjoy some Blue Mountain beer samples before your self-guided flashlight tour. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to explore the tunnel after dark!

November 10 & 11

Gladstone, Virginia

We are excited to announce that James River State Park is a designated international dark-sky park. We have been working with the International Dark-Sky Association to do our part in protecting our night skies from light pollution, and we invite you to celebrate this wonderful accomplishment with us. 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!


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.


Jan. 10 – January 25
Feb. 9 – Feb. 23
March 10 – March 25
April 10 – April 24
May 9 – May 24
June 8 – June 22
July 9 – July 22
Aug. 8 – Aug. 21
Sept. 7 – Sept. 19
Oct. 5 – Oct. 18
Nov. 5 – Nov. 17
Dec. 1 – Dec. 16

educational space videos