Stargazing is simply observing the night sky. It’s an enjoyable hobby enjoyed by many outdoor enthusiasts and amateur astronomers. It’s an activity that can be done any time of the year, alone, with friends, or at a group “star party”. You can also pursue an interest in astronomy from your backyard or neighborhood park. We provide a list of important celestial events each month.
You can also join a public “star party”. This is a fun way to learn and see things for the first time or for the thousandth time. At a star party, you not only share great views of the sky, you have the opportunity to make new friends and learn more about astronomy.
Below we list some information about star parties throughout the Puget Sound region. Most are outdoors, but some have contingency plans for an indoor presentation. You know, just in case it’s cloudy or raining…. We also provide information about attending star parties, what to bring, plus some do’s and don’ts.
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Choose from daily, weekly, and monthly lists:
Selected Celestial Event Highlights for 2023
Meteor Shower Viewing Tips
To view meteor showers, find an area well away from city lights and streetlights and an area with as large a view of the sky as possible. Dress for the weather! Lie flat on your back (on a lounge chair or blanket is recommended) with your feet facing south. Look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt, and you will begin to see meteors—be patient. The show should last until dawn, so you have plenty of opportunity to catch a glimpse.
While the meteor showers are named for a specific constellation, it is not the source of the meteors. They are visible throughout the night sky.
August 30-31 – Full Moon, Supermoon, Blue Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 01:37 UTC (Aug 30, 6:37 PM PDT). This is also the third of four supermoons for 2023. The Moon will be near its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual. Since this is the second full moon in the same month, it is sometimes referred to as a blue moon.
September 23 – September Equinox. The fall equinox occurs at 06:43 UTC (Sept 22 11:43PM PDT). The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.
September 29 – Full Moon, Supermoon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 09:59 UTC (2:59 AM PDT). This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Corn Moon because the corn is harvested around this time of year. This moon is also known as the Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the September equinox each year. This is also the last of four supermoons for 2023. The Moon will be near its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.
October 8, 9 – Draconids Meteor Shower. The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the night of the 8th and morning of the 9th. The second quarter moon will be visible in the early morning but shouldn’t interfere too much. The Draconids is an unusual shower in that the best viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most other showers. Best viewing will be in the early evening from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco but can appear anywhere in the sky. The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900.
October 14 – Annular Solar “Ring of Fire” Eclipse. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon is too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun. This results in a ring of light around the darkened Moon. The Sun’s corona is not visible during an annular eclipse. The eclipse path will begin in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern Canada and move across the southwestern United States and Central America, Columbia, and Brazil. A partial eclipse will be visible throughout much of North and South America. More info: Annular solar eclipse 2023: Everything you need to know about North America’s ‘ring of fire’ eclipse | Space
This “ring of fire” eclipse will reach a maximum 80% totality in the Seattle area at 9:20AM. More info: Eclipses visible in Seattle, Washington, USA – Oct 14, 2023 Solar Eclipse (timeanddate.com)
However, 100% totality will be visible in Eugene, OR on Saturday morning, October 14, 2023 at 9:20AM lasting about 4 minutes. Eugene is about 280 miles south of Seattle, a 4-hour+ drive. Check our sister site’s Guide to Oregon’s Annular Solar Eclipse on October 14 – Portland Living on the Cheap, as well as October Solar Eclipse in Colorado: What You Need To Know – Mile High on the Cheap.
In April 2024, you can chase the next Solar eclipse from Texas to Maine: Where to watch Total Solar Eclipse April 2024 in Ohio – Columbus on the Cheap and Solar Eclipse in Maine – Southern Maine on the Cheap
October 20, 21 – Orionids Meteor Shower. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 20 and the morning of October 21. The first quarter moon may block some of the dim meteors in the evening, but it will set shortly after midnight. This will leave dark skies for what could be a good morning show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion but can appear anywhere in the sky. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times.
October 23 – Venus at Greatest Western Elongation. The planet Venus reaches greatest eastern elongation of 46.4 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Venus since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the bright planet in the eastern sky before sunrise.
October 28 – Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 20:25 UTC (1:25 PM PDT). This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This moon has also been known as the Travel Moon and the Blood Moon.
November 3 – Jupiter at Opposition. The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands. A good pair of binoculars should allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet.
November 4, 5 – Taurids Meteor Shower. The Taurids run annually from September 7 to December 10. It peaks this year on the night of November 4 and the morning of the 5th.The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus but can appear anywhere in the sky. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The second quarter moon may block most of the dim meteors this year. But if you are patient, you may still be able to catch a few good ones.
November 17, 18 – Leonids Meteor Shower. The Leonids run annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The Leonids is an average shower, producing up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo but can appear anywhere in the sky. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The crescent moon will set before midnight leaving dark skies for what should be a great early morning show.
November 27 – Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 09:17 UTC (2:17 AM PT). This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Beaver Moon because this was the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze. It has also been known as the Frosty Moon and the Dark Moon.
For more information on these events, visit the Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events (seasky.org), EarthSky | Earth, Space, Sun, Human, Tonight (earthsky.org), and Skywatching tips from NASA (olarsystem.nasa.gov).
Free stargazing events in Seattle-Tacoma
The following groups and organizations regularly hold free public stargazing events throughout the region.
Stargazing with Seattle Astronomical Society in public parks around King County
Seattle Astronomical Society (SAS) organizes monthly star parties in area parks. These outdoor stargazing events are free, family-friendly, and open to the public. A typical star party gathering features observing through two or more different types of telescopes provided by SAS members, along with the opportunity to ask questions, discuss the observation process, and learn about astronomical topics. Weather cancels the event; last minute updates are available on their website.
To enhance your experience, you may want to download and print your own copy of the current Evening Sky Map at http://www.skymaps.com/downloads.html. This 2-page guide contains a detailed sky map, the current monthly sky calendar, and a descriptive list of the best objects to see with binoculars, a telescope, or using just your eyes. It is suitable for all stargazers including newcomers to astronomy. And, unlike other star charts on the Web, The Evening Sky Map will print clearly on any printer.
See the list below for the Upcoming Astronomy and Stargazing Events, or visit: http://www.seattleastro.org/news_and_events/star_parties
Stargazing at UW Seattle Theodor Jacobsen Observatory
A dedicated group of SAS volunteers offer twice-monthly programs April through October at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory (TJO) on the University of Washington Seattle campus. The program includes a short presentation by SAS members and/or UW undergrads, history of the observatory and its beautiful telescope (over 100 years old), and if the weather permits, the dome is opened for views through the telescope.
See the list below for the Upcoming Astronomy and Stargazing Events, or visit: http://depts.washington.edu/astron/outreach/jacobsen-observatory/#a2
Stargazing in Tacoma
Tacoma Astronomical Society (TAS) hosts free public viewing sessions each month at Pierce College near Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood (about 10 miles south of Tacoma). There is no charge for stargazing and observing the night sky through TAS telescopes. However, donations are gladly accepted. The donations are used to further public education and outreach programs.
- On nights with clear skies TAS volunteers provide telescopic observations of the Moon, planets, star clusters, nebulae, galaxies, double stars and more. Each season boasts something new and exciting for frequent guests.
- On cloudy nights, indoor lectures, demonstrations and workshops will be available at public events regardless of the weather.
- Cancelled 2020-201 until further notice.
Find stargazing clubs in your areas: Clubs & Events | Night Sky Network (nasa.gov)
What to bring to an outdoor stargazing event or “star party”
If you have a telescope or binoculars you want to share, bring it along.
If you don’t have any stargazing equipment, group star parties typically have several different telescopes or binoculars brought by people attending who are happy to share. If you are thinking about getting a telescope, it can be a great opportunity to try and compare equipment and ask questions about cost and features.
Even in summer, it can get chilly at night and you will be standing most of the time. So, dress in layers warmer than you think you might need and wear comfortable shoes. Bring a thermos with something warm to drink (such as coffee, tea, or hot cider), plus a snack if you think you might need some extra energy.
Bring a red flashlight. Red light has almost no effect on our night vision. If you don’t have a red flashlight, put red cellophane over a white lens with a rubber band, or paint the lens in red nail polish, or cut a circular piece out of a red plastic report binder and place it under the lens.
Star Party do’s and don’ts
Arrive before dark to orient and introduce yourself. Check the weather report and plan to arrive no later than sunset, or up to 30 minutes prior.
If you come to a star party without a telescope, leave the parking spots closest to the observing site for those with heavy equipment to carry.
After dark, be especially careful around the telescopes: don’t move or turnaround quickly. There are cables connecting equipment that are easy to trip over in the dark. And remember to not use any white light, only red light (see “what to bring” above).
Do not use white flashlights anytime during a star party. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for your eyes to get dark-adapted and only a second or two of white light to make you start over again.
Do not touch the glass eyepiece of a telescope or binoculars.
Do not talk loud or be rowdy. Star-gazing is a quiet, peaceful activity.
Do not litter…pack it in, pack it out!
Do ask questions of other more experienced attendees. Stargazers love to talk about their hobby and are usually happy to answer questions.
Other recent and exciting stargazing and space events
Every day since Nov. 2, 2000, people have been orbiting our planet inside the International Space Station (ISS), bringing together science, technology and human innovation to enable new technologies and research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. The ISS is a blueprint for global cooperation for future exploration beyond Earth – one that enables U.S.-led multinational partnerships and advances shared goals in space exploration. The station facilitates the growth of a robust commercial market in low-Earth orbit as the only U.S. National Laboratory in space. Commercial cargo resupply and commercial crew transportation to the station and low-Earth orbit will enable a space exploration economy.
International Space Station
As the third-brightest object in the sky (only the Sun and Moon are brighter!), the International Space Station is easy to see at dawn or dusk when it flies over your home. Sign up for text messages or emails to know when and where to look up and wave at the astronauts at NASA’s Spot the Station website. More info: Spot The Station | NASA and International Space Station | NASA
NASA Commercial Spaceflight Program
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has worked with several American aerospace industry companies to facilitate the development of U.S. human spaceflight. The goal is to have safe, reliable, and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and to foster commercial access to other potential low-Earth orbit destinations. NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX in September 2014 to transport crew to the International Space Station from the United States. These integrated spacecraft, rockets and associated systems will carry up to four astronauts on NASA missions, maintaining a space station crew of seven to maximize time dedicated to scientific research on the orbiting laboratory. More info: Commercial Crew Program | NASA
- The next available launch attempt is at 12:34 a.m. EST Thursday, March 2, 2023. Follow along with launch activities and get more information about the mission at: Commercial Crew Blog (blogs.nasa.gov)
SpaceX’s Starlink satellite “chain of lights”
In 2019, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. The satellites are the first of a planned 12,000-satellite megaconstellation to provide internet access to people on Earth. Satellite observers are giddy with excitement. The satellites orbit at approximately 273 miles above the Earth. As they move across the night sky, they put on a spectacular show for ground observers. To the eye, the 60 satellites appear as a “moving train” of moderately faint stars usually visible to the naked eye under a dark, clear sky. Initially, the satellites were stretched out in a straight line. However, as the satellites revolve around Earth at 90-minute intervals, they should appear less “bunched” together and may get fainter as they are slowly raised to their operational orbits of 342 miles.
If you would like to try and see the Starlink satellites, you will need to consult an online satellite tracker, such as: SpaceX Starlink Satellites Tracker (findstarlink.com). Note: the horizon is 0°, the width of your fist is bout 10°, and the highest point directly overhead is 90° (so 10°-30° and above 50°-60° is high in the sky). We occasionally check findstarlink.com and post upcoming sightings in our monthly list above.
Upcoming Science & Nature Events
Listed below are all kinds of science and nature events on our calendar in the next 60 days.
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Friday, September 29, 2023
Saturday, September 30, 2023
Sunday, October 1, 2023
Monday, October 2, 2023
Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Wednesday, October 4, 2023
Thursday, October 5, 2023
Friday, October 6, 2023
Saturday, October 7, 2023
Sunday, October 8, 2023
Monday, October 9, 2023
Tuesday, October 10, 2023
Wednesday, October 11, 2023
Thursday, October 12, 2023
Friday, October 13, 2023
Saturday, October 14, 2023
Sunday, October 15, 2023
Monday, October 16, 2023
Tuesday, October 17, 2023
Wednesday, October 18, 2023
Thursday, October 19, 2023
Friday, October 20, 2023
Saturday, October 21, 2023
Sunday, October 22, 2023
Monday, October 23, 2023
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Wednesday, October 25, 2023
Thursday, October 26, 2023
Friday, October 27, 2023
Saturday, October 28, 2023
Sunday, October 29, 2023
Monday, October 30, 2023
Tuesday, October 31, 2023
Wednesday, November 1, 2023
Thursday, November 2, 2023
Friday, November 3, 2023
Saturday, November 4, 2023
Sunday, November 5, 2023
Monday, November 6, 2023
Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Wednesday, November 8, 2023
Thursday, November 9, 2023
Friday, November 10, 2023
Saturday, November 11, 2023
Sunday, November 12, 2023
Monday, November 13, 2023
Tuesday, November 14, 2023
Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Thursday, November 16, 2023
Friday, November 17, 2023
Saturday, November 18, 2023
Sunday, November 19, 2023
Monday, November 20, 2023
Tuesday, November 21, 2023
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
But wait, there’s more!
- Planetarium shows in the Puget Sound region
- STEM for kids at home with Rosie Research
- Free local livestream, virtual tours, and online classes
- More free and cheap things to do every day: Greater Seattle on the Cheap event calendar.
- Still more ideas for frugal fun: Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page.
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