Riverside Astronomical Society—Outreach, star parties, dark sky site, and you!

Star Party Info

Join Us Under Dark Skies

The Milky Way over GMARS in 2017
The Milky Way over GMARS in 2017

Next Star Party: November 1st thru 4th
Location: Nightfall at the Palm Canyon Hotel

The telescope field at GMARS will be available with power to the pads. Please keep in mind that the house may not be available as most key-holding club members will be attending Nightfall. There will not be a star-be-cue at GMARS.

Nightfall is southern California's premiere star party. Held at the Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort, it features hotel rooms, two pools & hot tubs, a large RV park with full hookups, conference facilities, and much more. With free talks, a premium workshop, and the dark skies of the surrounding Anza Borrego Desert State Park, it's easy to see why Nightfall has become such a popular star party!


Frequently Asked GMARS Star Party Questions

Do I have to be a club member or own a telescope to attend?

Absolutely, unequivocally NO! Everyone is welcome at our GMARS star parties and there is never any charge for attending or looking through a telescope. If you do have a telescope, by all means bring it! We can even show you how to use it. If you don't have one, not to worry. There will be telescopes at the star party you can look through, including the club's 22" Dobsonian telescope.

Where is GMARS located? How long will it take to get there? Will my car make it?

We can't predict anything about the road worthiness of your car but getting here is easy. All roads are paved except for the last 1.8 miles. The dirt road to the property is level and easy to drive in any car. It is typically "washboarded" so it might be a little bumpy but it shouldn't present any problem for your car (but your car WILL get a little dusty/dirty).

If you're coming from the LA/Orange County area, expect travel time to be around 2 hours — a little less if you're coming from Riverside or parts of San Bernardino County. See the driving directions page for details on how to get here.

Once on the dirt roads and on the GMARS property be sure to stay on the designated road areas. The sand is very loose off the roads and any 2-wheel drive vehicle can easily get stuck.

Can I set up a tent or bring an RV to GMARS?

Yes and yes. We have lots of space for setting up tents and parking RVs. However, the power outlets on the telescope field are NOT for use by RVs, and there is no dumping on the property. Electrical outlets are only to be used for telescopes and related astro equipment. (OK, you can charge your phone too.) Please see the GMARS Site Map for info on where to park and set up tents.

Even though you may be camping in a tent or RV, campfires are absolutely NOT allowed. Open fires of any kind are NOT permitted. For cooking, you can use the kitchen in the GMARS house or your own propane/gas stove.

What else should I know about GMARS and the star parties?

There's lots of information on this website. See the Star Party section links at upper left, and browse through the entire site using the main navigation near the top. Especially useful are the GMARS Introduction, Driving Directions, Your First Visit, and Star Party Etiquette pages.



Additional General Star Party Information

The Riverside Astronomical Society hosts monthly star parties, which are usually scheduled around weekends nearest the new moon (holidays and special events may cause that to shift now and then). They typically run from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning at the club's dark sky site, GMARS, in Landers, CA.

You do not need to be a member of the RAS or even own a telescope to attend any of our star parties. At our regular monthly star parties, there's always a telescope to look through and there's never a fee. We do ask that you familiarize yourself with GMARS before making your first visit. Having an idea of what to expect and what to do makes it a better experience for everyone involved.

In addition to star parties at GMARS, we often have RAS star parties at other locations to coincide with events or just to experience a change in scenery. Those events and locations include:

  • Big Bear at the RTMC Astronomy Expo | More Info
  • Mt. Laguna at Laguna Campground, Meadow Loop | More Info
  • White Mountains at the Grandview Campground | More Info
  • Menghini Winery at the Julian Starfest | More Info
  • Borrego Springs for Nightfall | More Info

Unlike our GMARS star parties, the off-site star parties (those listed above) may have certain fees or attendance restrictions associated with them. Click a "more info" link to get details.