Nightfall Star Party & Imaging Conference

Palm Canyon Hotel office, restaurant and saloon
Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort office, restaurant and saloon

Established in 1993 by the Riverside Telescope Makers Conference (RTMC), Nightfall is now presented by the Riverside Astronomical Society, Inc. (RAS) with assistance and support from Woodland Hills Camera & Telescopes. This autumn star party is unique among star parties because it takes place at a desert resort that creates a dark, red-light-only environment throughout the hotel property and RV park for at least three nights. The skies are beautifully dark yet there’s a hardware store, grocery store, and restaurants just down the street.

Dark Sky Community Designation

The west parking lot is packed with big Dobs and other scopes!
The west parking lot is packed with big Dobs and other scopes!

Borrego Springs, the unincorporated city in which Nightfall is held each year, was only the 2nd location to be designated an International Dark Sky Community (IDSC) by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). As the press release notes:

IDSC certification recognizes Borrego Springs’ exceptional commitment to dark sky protection and restoration throughout the community. The IDSC program was established in 2001 by the IDA, a Tucson, AZ based non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the nighttime environment. Designees must adhere to stringent standards that protect the natural night sky and ensure the continuation of this protection through community directives.

Family Friendly

Nightfall provides a great opportunity to bring family and friends to a star party. While they may be put off by the conditions found at typical star parties (tent camping, freezing cold, little to do during the day), Nightfall is a whole different ball game with amenities like pools, air-conditioned rooms, nearby restaurants, a grocery store, and a well-stocked hardware store — and dark night skies to boot! The resort is surrounded by the expansive Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which offers nearby hiking, off-roading adventures, and sightseeing.

You Don’t Have to Love the Dark to Love Nightfall

The picnic area

There is plenty to do at Nightfall, day and night. In addition to observing and imaging throughout each evening, the RAS hosts astronomy and imaging-related presentations on Friday and Saturday, the Friday afternoon “welcome” reception, and the Saturday evening potluck dinner followed by an interactive sky tour (great for beginners!), and our Ice Cream Social. You can also head into the surrounding Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for numerous daytime activities.

Need More than 3 Nights?

Nightfall officially starts on Thursday with some attendees arriving and getting in a night of viewing or imaging whiile attendance is still minimal. Things really pick up on Friday and Saturday with activities and presentations — it’s also when the bulk of attendees start arriving. The Palm Canyon Hotel is often red-light ready days before and the day after the star party. Many attendees make a week of it. If you’re considering this, be sure to plan ahead and make your reservation for the correct dates. Most attendees pack up and leave on Sunday.

A typical workshop at Nightfall.
A premium workshop at Nightfall (This one was with Mike Unsold, creator of ImagesPlus.)

Please note that Veterans Day falls within the Nightfall 2023 dates! Veterans Day is Saturday, 11/11 but is observed by many employers on Friday, 11/10. Keep that in mind when reserving as you may be able to come a day earlier than you usually do!

When making your reservation be sure to tell them that you are attending the Nightfall Star Party. Since they reserve most of the rooms and RV spaces for Nightfall attendees during this time, you may be told the hotel is booked if you fail to mention Nightfall!

The Ideal Star Party Venue

Nightfall has become a much-anticipated annual event for many southern Californians and others around the country. With its relaxed atmosphere, numerous amenities, comfortable weather, and dark skies, it’s easy to understand why Nightfall has become the favorite organized star party of many amateur astronomers.