Star Party

at Whispering Pines

10-15 September 2023

Frequently asked questions

A Star Party is an event where amateur astronomers gather together to observe the night sky. We have selected a location far away from city lights to minimize light pollution and maximize the viewing experience.

The main focus is on observing and photographing the night sky and the celestial objects that can be seen from a dark location and, of course, having fun.

Participants bring their telescopes, binoculars, cameras and other equipment to take advantage of the dark site. Most are happy to share their telescope views with others. It is an excellent opportunity for everybody to socialize and exchange knowledge with other enthusiasts.

During the day, there are talks and presentations on astronomy subjects, buy and sell tables, and other related activities.

Going to a Star Party can be a fun and educational way to explore the wonders of the universe and connect with other people who share an interest in astronomy.

When the Saskatchewan Summer Star Party was cancelled in 2020, everybody was naturally disappointed.

A few members of the Medicine Hat Astronomy Club decided that they wanted to get together anyway, and some had been invited to take their telescopes to Whispering Pines on a previous occasion, so they were familiar with the site. Even without star-party conditions, it was obvious that the camp had so much to offer.

Enquiries were made, and that led to an offer to rent the entire campground for the same week that SSSP was to have been held. We barely saw a cloud all week, and every night was a great success. There were no white lights and no non-star-party people in sight. Thirteen people attended in 2020.

We had such a good time that everybody wanted to do it again in 2021. SSSP was back on, so we booked Whispering Pines for September. Again, we barely saw a cloud, and apart from one evening of slightly reduced transparency, the week was another resounding success. Twenty-four people attended in 2021, including the same thirteen from the previous year.

We felt that this was too good to keep to ourselves any longer. We have full control of all the lighting in the campground, and natural screening from any light from outside. The only white light will be from the stars, and the only non-participants on site will be the fabulous camp managers, Denver and Julie, who fully understand our unusual requirements and have both been extremely helpful and supportive.

Whispering Pines is located in an area classed as Bortle 2, which is a 'typical truly dark site', with a naked-eye limiting magnitude of 7.1 to 7.5. John E. Bortle says of such sites:

"Airglow may be weakly apparent along the horizon. M33 is rather easily seen with direct vision. The summer Milky Way is highly structured to the unaided eye, and its brightest parts look like veined marble when viewed with ordinary binoculars. The zodiacal light is still bright enough to cast weak shadows just before dawn and after dusk, and its color can be seen as distinctly yellowish when compared with the blue-white of the Milky Way. Any clouds in the sky are visible only as dark holes or voids in the starry background. You can see your telescope and surroundings only vaguely, except where they project against the sky. Many of the Messier globular clusters are distinct naked-eye objects. The limiting naked-eye magnitude is as faint as 7.1 to 7.5, while a 32-cm [12.5"] telescope reaches to magnitude 16 or 17."

Yes, but the star party registration fee of $200 will still apply. We are effectively offering unserviced camping free to registrants.

Participants not staying in the camp overnight will be asked to park their vehicles at the gate by 8:00pm to avoid causing a disturbance with their lights.

Think of them as hard-walled tents, but with heating, lighting and power outlets, and the added benefit of a bunk off the floor. There is no running water or washroom facilities in the cabins.

Mattresses are provided but they are quite thin (see the pictures in the gallery). If your room is not full, you may double-up with a mattress from an unused bunk, or simply bring an air mattress if you wish.

If you have any questions or concerns about the accommodation offered, please get in touch through this site's contact form, or our Facebook page.

A few reasonable rules will help to ensure that everybody has an enjoyable time and that we will be able to return next year! Please be considerate and observe the following:

  • Only red lights are allowed after 8:30pm, except for emergencies.
  • Quiet time is until 11:00am.
  • No pets are permitted inside any camp buildings, including cabins.
  • Dogs must be kept on a leash and cleaned-up after immediately.
  • The camp management reserves the right to ask for noisy or aggressive dogs to be removed.
  • The consumption of alcohol is prohibited on the camp property.
  • Smoking is not permitted in any camp buildings. There is a designated smoking area in the parking lot.
  • No vehicles are permitted inside the ring of cabins. The area is exclusively reserved for participants' equipment.
  • The camp grounds must be vacated by 12:00pm on Friday, 15th September.
  • Sites and cabins should be left as clean as they were found.

Not from us!

The wiener roast is free thanks to Eagle Butte Observatory, coffee will be free all week thanks to South Country Co-op, the showers are free, laundry facilities are free (although guests must supply their own detergent), the games room is free, and the wi-fi is free. Even entry to the park is free!

All of which means you can save your money for the buy-and-sell tables .

Cancellations requested by 23:59 MDT on Sunday, 27th August, will be refunded less any payment processing charges we incurred. Payments through this web site cost 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction. If you prefer to pay by e-transfer or cheque, please contact us to make arrangements.

We regret that registrant cancellations made after the cancellation deadline cannot be refunded.

Cancellations should be requested through this site's contact form. We might ask for minimal additional information, as required to confirm your identity, before processing the cancellation.

In the unlikely event that SASP is cancelled, all registrants will be refunded in full.

Since October 2022, visitors to Canada are not required to prove COVID-19 vaccination.

It is recommended that travellers arriving by air use ArriveCAN within the 72-hours before their arrival in Canada to expedite entry.

The Government of Canada has a web page to help travellers determine their entry eligibility and requirements. Foreign visitors are strongly advised to check Visit Canada for complete information.

After careful consideration, we settled on September because:

  • Elkwater often still has snow in April.
  • May to July are too close to the summer solstice.
  • SSSP is in August and we did not want to miss it, or try to compete with it.
  • September has more hours of darkness. Sunset is at 19:46 on the first night.
  • The area is statistically more likely to have clear skies in September.
  • Any forest-fire smoke from the summer has usually dissipated by September.
  • SASP ends the same day that ASP begins, so it is easy to attend both. Starland Recreational Area is approximately a 3.5-hour drive from Whispering Pines.
  • By October's New Moon, there is a prohibitively-high chance of snow.


Please feel free to send a message through this site's contact form, or our Facebook page, and we will do our best to answer your questions as quickly as possible.