2017 Winter Star Party

The Winter Star Party "WSP" is a serious event designed for amateur astronomers.  WSP is held annually, usually during the new moon in February.  The event is unique in that it occurs mid-winter during the height of the Florida Keys tourist season.  The warm weather, coupled with dark skies, and possibly the steadies skies in North America attracts attendees from all over the frozen United States, Canada, and Europe giving the event an international flavor.  The amateur astronomical "get-to-together"allows participants to meet and share observing ideas, astro-imaging techniques, as well as find out what's new in the hobby.  WSP offers a stellar daily line-up of speakers who are experts in their particular field.  WSP is held under the auspices of the Southern Cross Astronomical Society of Miami.  This not -for-profit organization funnels proceeds from this event toward public education projects, scholarship programs, humanitarian needs and Girl Scout Camp improvements.

Established in 1984, the Annual WINTER STAR PARTY is held in the Florida Keys, and hosted by the Southern Cross Astronomical Society (SCAS), Inc., of Miami, Florida.

During a new moon week each February, approximately 650 amateur astronomers from around the world travel to the warm subtropics of the Florida Keys to enjoy nightly observing in 360º of clear steady night skies, exchange information and advice on the hobby, meet SCAS members and distinguished guest speakers, shop for astronomical equipment from the finest vendors in the country, participate in photo contests & workshops, go sightseeing in the "Conch Republic", and record the awesome beauty sparkling in the southern night skies.

TO REGISTER: Please contact the Winter Star Party Registrars at registrar@scas.org or call 386-362-5995 if you have any questions about registration. The 2017 WSP Registration Notification Postcards will be sent out in early September 2016.

TRAVEL: Getting to the WSP is easy. From the Miami International Airport, it's 45 minutes on the Florida Turnpike south, followed by two hours on scenic Highway US-1 down the Florida Keys. Connecting flights to Key West are also available, reducing driving time to under an hour. Marathon Airport offers scheduled airline service to and from Fort Myers, Fl on Continental Airlines (in partnership with Cape Air). Marathon Airport started this new service in 2008. 

We advise you NOT to make non-refundable travel plans until you have received confirmation of your registration. 

WHERE TO STAY: The Girl Scout Campground has plenty of room for tent camping and a limited amount of room for RVs (see registration form for prices). Chickee bunks are also available. Each chickee sleeps six. The campground has showers and clean bathrooms, but this is not a resort and facilities are rustic.

If you prefer to stay off-site, there are several hotels on neighboring Keys (look for accommodations in Big Pine or Marathon). 

Remember, the WSP is held during the peak of tourist season in the Keys, so reserve as soon as possible after you receive confirmation (AKA WSP Ticket) of your attendance. For information on area accommodations and recreational activities, call 1-800-FLA-KEYS or see The Official Florida Keys web site .

RV INFO:  There are NO electrical, water, or sewer hookups for RVs. Please plan to be self-contained upon entry to the camp. RV's will be pre-assigned to an "entry group" and should enter the camp on Feb. 20, 2016 no earlier than and no later than the time period in the registration packet received. Once parked, RV's cannot be moved before the end of the event (Sunday morning, Feb 27, 2017). Maximum RV capacity is 26 units for Camp Wesumkee. Dump stations are available at Bahia Honda Beach State Park and Sunshine Key RV Resort on the way back to Marathon. Both locations charge a fee (about $15) to use their dump stations.

WIFI: Winter Star Party will not provide WIFI connections to the internet

MEALS: Micki’s kitchen prepares meals during the WSP Event. Form information, click here.

PACKAGE DELIVERY TO THE WSP: Please be advised that you will not be able to receive mail or package deliveries at the girl scout camp during the Winter Star Party. However, we have made arrangements with The UPS Store in Marathon to accept deliveries on your behalf along with a special discount for providing the service to you. Just show your WSP badge/ticket at the counter and the store will waive any receiving/hold fees as a courtesy to the WSP.

The UPS Store

5409 Overseas Hwy #500

Marathon, FL 33050

(305) 743-2005

This UPS Store is located in the same shopping center as the "Publix Supermarket", on the left side as you pass through Marathon headed south to the WSP site. 

(Vendors: This notice does not apply to vendors shipping product in via freight carrier. Vendors PLEASE coordinate on-site deliveries with the WSP Vendor Coordinator or WSP Director prior to delivery.)

Fire Ant Notice: Each Year, prior to the annual Winter Star Party, we have Orkin Exterminator treat the grounds at Camp Wesumkee for fire ants. Even after a professional exterminator has treated the grounds for fire ants, experience has shown us that we can only reduce the ant population but not eliminate them. 

Some precautions: We recommend Amdro and/or approved equal ant bait. Do not use sprays, liquids and powders as they may harm your neighbor’s optics and poison the grounds. Fire ant bait is of a low toxicity and much safer for the environment when used as directed on the packaging. Fire Ant bait is available from hardware store gardening sections in the southern most states adjoining the gulf. Due to limited supplies in the Florida Keys we suggest you visit The Home Depot or Lowe's on the main land. Please refer to store web site for listings, locations, and directions from either US1 or the Turnpike. Please be aware that it will take a couple of days for the bait to start affecting the ant colony, and therefore, over pouring ant bait will not result in a speedier control of the fire ant population.

We recommend that you sprinkle fire ant bait over the area where you plan to pitch a tent. For Further protection we recommend placing a tarp between the tent flooring and treated ground surface. 

Fire ants also have an affinity to electric fields and have been known to find new homes in electrical appliances. We recommend that you lightly sprinkle your observing area and support any electrical appliance above and off the ground. 

Parking Before and During the WSP: The waiting line for entry into Camp Wesumkee forms at 6am on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. Please be aware that Monroe County Ordinance prohibits overnight camping alongside US-1 through the Florida Keys.

If you are not staying at The Winter Star Party campsite, and wish to leave after 7pm (gate closing time for vehicle traffic) each night, you must park your vehicle along US-1 and walk into the camp for nighttime observing. The Southern Cross Astronomical Society and Winter Star Party are concerned for your safety and therefore would like to remind you of the following

  • Please be aware that the posted speed limit on US-1 in front of the campsite is 55 mph.
  • Please park on the same side of the road as the camp (south side of the road). This keeps you from having to cross this very busy highway at night! If you are traveling southbound from Marathon, you can turn around at the boat ramp on the right side BEFORE you cross the bridge to Big Pine Key, or you can cross the bridge to Big Pine Key and make the left hand turn into the "Big Pine Key Fish Camp" and then turn around to come back over the bridge to West Summerland Key. 
  • For your safety and of those around you we request that you park away from the road edge allowing ample room for opening doors and walking along the roadside shoulder.
  • More so, we suggest that you walk between the cars and the campsite fence-line whenever possible. This keeps the parked vehicles between you and the traffic on US-1. 

Vehicles that are parked on the ‘Berm’ must be parked elsewhere well before sunset. This step is taken in consideration of the neighbors in the ‘Valley of the Dobs’ to allow them their sunset and southern object viewing. We request that everyone with vehicles parked on the ‘Berm’ to remove them by 6:00 pm.

VENDORS: You will be able to buy everything astronomical from T-shirts to telescopes. Be sure to check out the bargains! Check out the list of vendors attending the 2017 WSP by selecting the  Vendors link.

SPEAKERS: Once again, an outstanding lineup of speakers will educate and entertain you in the air-conditioned Wheelhouse. A Guest Speaker Schedule will be posted on the schedule of events web page.

ACTIVITIES: A Swap Meet will be held during the 33th Annual Winter Star Party. Bring your "astronomical trash" and take home a treasure! Hands-on activities will be provided for children on a daily basis.

WSP Clear Sky Chart