Hundreds of professional and amateur astronomers are focusing telescopes on southern constellations, stars, planets and even the International Space Station in the lower Florida Keys.
The 29th Winter Star Partykicked off Monday and has attracted almost 500 stargazing participants and guest speakers, including Michael Menzel, NASA mission systems engineer for the in-development James Webb Space Telescope.
Event founder Tippy D'Auria said the Keys are one of the few places in the contiguous United States where the Southern Cross and other celestial objects can be seen. The southern location, clear night skies and many available viewing locations without bright city lights help create optimal viewing conditions.
The star party ends Feb. 10 and is coordinated by the Southern Cross Astronomical Society, one of America's oldest amateur astronomical societies.