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.

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

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

Dark Sky Community Designation
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 presents 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, steady 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.

Star Party Way in the RV park.

Star Party Way in the RV park.

You Don’t Have to Love the Dark to Love Nightfall
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, a Friday afternoon “welcome” reception, a potluck dinner on Saturday evening, and an introductory sky tour that same evening. You can also head into the surrounding Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for numerous daytime activities.

A typical workshop at Nightfall.

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

Need More than 3 Nights?
Nightfall officially starts on Thursday and wraps-up Sunday morning. However, the Palm Canyon Hotel is often red-light ready the day before and the day after the star party. Call the resort for details about arriving early and staying late. When calling the hotel, be sure to mention Nightfall in particular, and not just the dates you wish to stay. If you fail to mention that you’re attempting to attend Nightfall, they may tell you the hotel is already “reserved.”

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.