DPNR and East End Marine Park Host Stargazing Event

People wait in the dimming light for the beginning of “Astronomy by the Sea.” (Photo provided by the Friends of St. Croix East End Marine Park)

A night of stargazing and storytelling under the new moon was the scene at the “Astronomy by the Sea” event, held Saturday by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and the Friends of St. Croix East End Marine Park.

Astronomy by the Sea is a new quarterly event created by the Friends of St. Croix East End Marine Park. The park is managed by the Division of Coastal Zone Management of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

East End Marine Park outreach coordinator Kelcie Troutman said Astronomy by the Sea is another goal to create new events to get people back outside and enjoying the outdoors.

“We have this wide-open field here, and we wanted to create events that would optimize its use,” she said.

There’s also a practical reason for holding the event on the east end, Troutman said.

“The east end has very little light pollution, so we thought it would be a really cool event to have people come out and learn about the constellations, stars, and planets above us,” she said.

Participants are asked to download the “Sky Walk” phone application, which allows them to identify and learn about different objects and occurrences in the night sky. They also are given a printed star chart in case they did not have a phone accessible or are unable to download the application.

The event also has a storytelling component.

“We invited Dr. Chenzira Kahina Davis of the V.I. Caribbean Cultural Center at the University of the Virgin Islands to join us and share astronomy-related stories and local folklore. She was accompanied by her husband who played captivating drumbeats,” Troutman said.

The East End Marine Park opened in April and since then has welcomed visitors to learn more about the park.

The park’s visitors center was also opened during Astronomy by the Sea and available for participants to walk through. This allowed event-goers to learn more about the marine park and some of the island’s natural resources and vital habitats in an interactive and user-friendly way.

Saturday’s presentation was the second time Astronomy by the Sea was held, and it has become increasingly popular. The park also hosts other quarterly events such as “Seagrass Patrol,” the “Coral Nursery Swim” at Cramer’s Park and smaller intermittent events such as clean-ups, bio blitzes, shoreline walks, arts and crafts, and more.

“All events and programs are geared to furthering and fostering the relationship between the community and St. Croix’s invaluable natural resources,” Troutman said.

Some upcoming events will include a Coral Nursery Swim in August and the Seagrass Patrol in September. There are also plans to hold another Astronomy by the Sea event and the dates will be announced.

The park reminded attendees to bring a blanket or chair, flashlight, and long-sleeve shirt. While Astronomy by the Sea is open to all ages, some of the other events do have age restrictions and an RSVP is required.

Events and activities are updated on the Friends of St. Croix East End Marine Park Facebook page.