Judges choose the best homemade telescopes and equipment, earning their owners esteem and sometimes even a prize. If rain falls in the evening, partygoers may watch slide shows in a nearby hall or a big tent. Arrangements vary, but often, some attendees camp in the field; others rent inexpensive cabins or commute from nearby motels.
Star parties may last for a night or two, or sometimes as long as a week. They attract a few hundred to a few thousand (yes, thousand!) telescope makers and amateur astronomers. And the larger star parties have websites with photos of previous events and details on coming attractions. Some resemble AstroFests, with exhibitors and distinguished speakers, as well as stargazing.
The leading star parties in the United States include:
- Stellafane: This Vermont star party has been going strong since 1926.
- Texas Star Party: Commune with the stars on the mile-high Prude Ranch in the Lone Star State.
- Enchanted Skies Star Party: Head to the desert for dark sky observing near Magdalena, New Mexico, and fine speakers.
- Nebraska Star Party: This party boasts "a fantastic light pollution–free sweep of the summer night sky."
- The LAS Equinox Sky Camp: Held at Kelling Heath, Norfolk, this party bills itself as "the largest star party in the U.K."
- Kielder Star Camp: This twice-yearly event in the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park occurs in a forest thought to be "the darkest venue for any English star party."