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2023 – IDSSP

Illinois Dark Skies Star Party 2023

Every year since 2002, in late September or early October (depending on the date of the new moon) the Sangamon Astronomical Society (“SAS”) has been sponsoring the Illinois Dark Skies Star Party–with the exception of 2020, which of course was the year of the pandemic.

This year, the Star Party will be held October 12-15, 2023.  

Here is what you need to know about the Star Party.

1.  Location

The Star Party is held at the Jim Edgar Panther Creek Fish and Wildlife Area, about 31 miles NW of the State Capitol Building in downtown Springfield:

The Jim Edgar Panther Creek Fish and Wildlife Area is easily found using standard GPS programs such as Google Maps, Apple Maps, Garmin, etc.  Further information about the park is found on the Department of Natural Resources website:  


The event is held at the East Group Campground and the West Group Campground immediately west of and adjacent to it.  Ample signage will direct participants to the campgrounds, and here is an aerial blowup of the map above, showing the location of the group campgrounds relative to the entrance to the park:

Amenities at the group campgrounds are limited to water and toilets.  There is plenty of space available for RV’s, camping trailers and tents.  Meals will be served and programs will be conducted at the group campgrounds, where there are also covered pavilions for these purposes. Participants camping at the group campgrounds will need to bring their own sources of electricity, there being no on-site power.  

Registration and several programs will be at the West Group Campground.  All meals are served at the East Group Campground, which for most participants is the preferred camping location.

Please note there is another campground north of the group campgrounds and visible on the above map, the Prairie Lake Campground.  Unlike the group campgrounds, the Prairie Lake campground has RV pads with power, and it has showers.  In the past, some participants in the Star Party have preferred to overnight at the Prairie Lake Campground.  The State Park charges additional for use of the Prairie Lake Campground.

2.  Dates, Times and Events

The Star Party kicks off during the afternoon of Thursday, October 12, with 3 nights of viewing:  October 12, 13, 14, 15.  Participants are asked to break camp by noon on Sunday, October 15.  

On Friday, October 13 at the West Group Campground, there will be the ever-popular Astronomy Bowl, with prizes awarded to the winners.

On Saturday, October 14, there will be presentations at the West Group Campground Pavilion

Following dinner at the East Group Campground, there will be a raffle (always a fun event) and presentation of the 4th annual Jardine Service to Amateur Astronomy Award.

3.  Registration Fees

Registration fees for 2023 are $60 for an individual or $85 for a family (up to 4 members) and $10 per each additional family members.  Registration will be per the Registration Form and the deadline for registration is October 2, 2023, after which there is a late fee.

4.  Meals

As in the past, meals will be provided for participants by the Lions Club and Boy Scouts, as follows:

Thursday, October 12 Dinner only 

Friday, October 13 Brunch and dinner

Saturday, October 14 Brunch and dinner

The charge this year will be $12 for lunch and $17 for dinner. 

The menu for this year is in the Registration Form.

5.  T-shirts  

T-shirts and sweatshirts memorializing the Star Party must be ordered in advance on the Registration Form.  This year’s T-shirt features an image of M3 and Comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard), captured by Mark Lovik in December, 2021

6.  Walk-in participants

Walk-in participants are welcome at the Star Party upon payment of the registration and late fees.  There may be a limited number of meals available for walk-ins upon payment of the meal charges set forth above, if the Boy Scouts and Lions have extra food.  However, availability of meals for walk-ins is by no means guaranteed.

7.  Equipment Sales

As in the past, there will be tables set up in the pavilions where participants may place equipment for sale to other participants.  The SAS may also offer donated equipment for sale. 

8.  Other Points of Interest

Springfield, of course, is the State Capital and contains many interesting historical sites, in the main pertaining to Abraham Lincoln.  

The main sites are:

–Lincoln Home National Park

–The Old State Capitol

–The Lincoln Tomb

–The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

For Frank Lloyd Wright fans, there is the not-to-be-missed Prairie Style mansion, the Dana Thomas House, which is open to the public.

Springfield also is the home of the Illinois State Museum, with collections relating to art, history, anthropology and natural history, naturally focusing on Illinois.

Outside of Springfield near the town of Petersburg is the New Salem State Historic Site.  Lincoln spent a number of years as a young man in the Village of New Salem, and launched his legal and political careers there.  The town was later abandoned, but in the 1930’s, the village was reconstructed on its original building foundations and has been a historic site ever since.  Well worth a visit! 

9.  Geo-location coordinates of Star Party; Zenith sky brightness 

The coordinates of the Pavilion at the East Lake Campground are:



The zenith sky brightness information for this location (and the entire area of the Star Party) is as follows:

10.  Questions?

Further questions regarding the Illinois Dark Sky Star Party should be sent to:


This account will be monitored through October 11, 2023, after which time we will be busy at the Star Party and unable to answer e-mail!

"Man must rise above the Earth—to the top of the atmosphere and beyond—for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives." - Socrates

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