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  1. Hello, I came across this forum and been wondering how one goes about creating a star party ? What are the rules and conditions that needs be met ? Cheers Roger
  2. Hello All, Family health and other life events got in the way for a few years, but I must come out of my cave to get this great news out. The 32nd annual Grand Canyon Star Party (GCSP) will return to an in-person event, to be held June 18 through 25, 2022, in northern Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park. GCSP is an annual collaboration between the National Park Service and astronomers from around North America and often the world to bring astronomy outreach to Park visitors. The Moon will be at third quarter for the week, giving us dark skies for the usual nightly duration of the event. Amateur astronomers with a telescope or binoculars and love of the sky to share, as well as the interested public of all ages, are invited to experience the beautiful Arizona nights in an exploration of the heavenly Grand Canyon skies. Not an astronomer? Drop in for an unforgettable and fabulous vacation for families, singles, and seniors. GCSP will be held concurrently on both the North and South Rims. Volunteers may attend 1 night, all 8 nights, or any number in between. At the South Rim, visitors to the park are welcome to come to the observing site behind the Main Visitor Center at their leisure at no cost other than Park entrance fee and observe through any or all of the many telescopes available. Reservations are not required for visitors. North Rim activity information may also be found below including further North Rim site information. At the South Rim component, daytime outreach has grown over the years, with hands-on demonstrations on astronomical topics at the Main Visitor Center and occasionally in the Bright Angel area, as well as solar, lunar, and planetary observing during the day around the park. Also at the South Rim, although the theater is expected to be closed for this year’s event, in front of the Visitor Center we plan to have a variety of nightly presentations by a great group of speakers as the twilight deepens. For the South Rim, we have space available for larger instruments, and an area reserved for live video setups, that may be left in place for the duration. Volunteer astronomers are required to pre-register with the coordinator for the Rim they wish to join, although the North Rim Grand Canyon Lodge Veranda is usually filled early in the year. Astronomers are responsible for securing their own lodging. For more information including registration for volunteers, web sites and contact information are shown below. Please contact Steve for the North Rim, or me for the South Rim, if you are interested in attending or for questions you might have. North Rim: 2022 Grand Canyon Star Party – Saguaro Astronomy Club Steve Dodder Coordinator, North Rim, Grand Canyon Star Party 53750 W. Prickley Pear Rd. Maricopa, AZ 85239 E-mail: fester00 [at] hotmail.com Phone: 1-602-390-0118 South Rim http://tucsonastronomy.org/upcoming-events/grand-canyon-star-party/ Jim O’Connor Coordinator, South Rim, Grand Canyon Star Party P.O. Box 41254 Tucson, Arizona 85717 E-mail: General Information: gcsp [at] tucsonastronomy.org Jim O’Connor “Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science” - Edwin Hubble
  3. The summer equinox has passed and people are looking forward to Star Parties. I have never been to one, don't know what to expect, have never met the participants. As a solitary observer tucked away in my small North West garden I have been happy to gaze the night skies alone (Mrs Polar Bear often pops out for high mag views of the Moon and Planets) but otherwise I enjoy my own company and get along very well with myself. So I have taken the plunge and committed to attend CSP9 oop North in Cumbria. Watching the CSP9 thread develop I noticed comforting words such as friendly, whisky, bacon butties, and with a host called delilahtwinkle what could go wrong? Being a tent snob, and loving Glamping my 'usual' nights out are spent in a Cabanon that is the size of a Jovian Moon and takes 2 people an hour to set up. Not ideal, so ebay to the rescue and luckily a smaller Cabanon (think Europa vs Ganymede comparison) was found just up the road from me. Sleeping will be the usual twin air bed and duvets, a single burner will suffice for snacks, unsure as to whether to take the BBQ and the fold away hanging wardrobes ! So camping equipment sorted, onto the scope. Easy decision as I only own one (this week) so the C8 will be coming. Do you put the scopes away each day? unsure, so I found a new moped cover on the local car boot for £3.00 that will do the trick of protecting it. Red light etiquette is an unknown to me, I always observe at home amongst the fairy lights strewn around the garden. As a smoker I worry about lighters, do they affect dark adapted vision? Can I open my car door or do I need to shield the interior lights if I do? So much to learn regarding Star Party etiquette. I am really looking forward to it, and to meeting up with like minded individuals (whisky drinkers) :wink:
  4. 2016 26th Annual Grand Canyon Star Party In Memory Of Joe Orr DAY FOUR - Clumsy Me, Great Visitors Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft. elevation Weather: 93F mid-day, 80F at sunset, 54F when I quit near midnight. A few clouds all around at sunset, but clearing out early until western weather started moving in late. Seeing and Transparency: Transparency very occulted by wildfires, causing increased integration times. Very steady skies. There were some strong gusts in early afternoon that knocked over and damaged one large dob. Equipment: 10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount Mallincam Xterminator video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor. Pretty much a boring day, except for a pesky food poisoning! Lost a LOT of moisture, but nothing that a couple of big Gatorades didn't partially fix. I went up to the site early to provide an interview for a YouTube project. It was great to talk with a young college student who is a AV Production major who just happens to be an amateur astronomer as well as running a YouTube site for her college. One unfortunate thing I noticed as I came into the lot early and set up next to my scope for the interview was that earlier wind gusts had lifted an astronomer's large tube dob out of the rocker box and dumped it on the ground. The mirror was OK, but the mirror box, elevation bearings, and other bits need to be reworked. I had the same thing happen at our old site in 2004. I my 18" truss dob secured, I thought, but I allowed no rotation and the angle of the tube was about 25 degrees. During the night, the wind shifted 180 degrees, got under the tube with the shroud making a great sail, and lifted the whole assembly out of the rocker box and dropped it onto the ground beside it. The next day, I found my primary mirror half way up the truss on the ground, and the upper ring of the secondary cage cracked in multiple places. NOT fun. One just can't allow the wind to get under the tube, so stowing at a lower angle is essential. Yesterday's event happened to a tube that was fixed almost vertical. At the appointed time, I went into the theater for the night talk; tonight it was Marilyn Unruh, who owns The Booknook science book store in Prescott and is a tremendous outreach practitioner and educator. She does her talk without any slides, breaking the presentation down into Telescopes as Time Machines (relative distances close to home and across the universe), Have You Seen The Shadow Of The Earth (the sunrise/sunset effect of the Earth shadow against the debris of the solar system, plus the shadows cast by various astronomical features), and Using Your Five Senses for Astronomy, a very clever depiction of listening to the cosmic background, seeing the night sky, smelling and tasting the air which was once inside a star, and using your hand to measure angular distances in the sky. Always a well-received talk. I went back to the scope and, since it was dark, I put it on the Moon to start things off. It was a nice three day old image, showing the small impact craters on the limb. Due to the nature of the SCT image flips and the focal reducer on the camera, I can rotate the camera to orient the image on the screen so that it matches the naked eye view of the moon. It always surprises me when visitors enjoy a view at this stage of lunation that most of us veterans take for granted. With a break in the crowd, I moved over and aligned on Vega and dropped to the Ring Nebula, M57. Once again it was gorgeous, a red hydrogen wrappper and the wider blue-green segment surrounding the white dwarf at the center. Thus began the running discussion of stellar evolution and how our Sun will join the ranks of mid-sized stars consuming their fuel. At a break in the flow, I went over to the Dumbbell planetary nebula. It was moderately off center, so I started to try to bring it into better view, when I kicked the tripod, greatly disturbing all alignment. I parked it, went to check polar alignment, and it was significantly in error. After taking care of that, I went back to Vega and aligned and did a focus check. When I went back down to the Ring, I made a major error that caused a long time of chasing gremlins and applying incorrect fixes. First, when setting the integration time on the wireless controller, I hit the wrong field, and applied an 11 second interval time. So I was getting the previous six second time shown in the image from the correct field, but a drop off the screen of the image. I was thinking it was a different problem, so I recycled the camera. Same story. I misinterpreted the flicker of the interval delay on the receiver to imply the receiver battery was dying, so I changed batteries. I had to chase the channel of the receiver to the one I use for this camera, got it all running, and there was the flicker again. I checked the transmitter, and DUH, saw the mistake. After I got that fixed, and went back to the Ring, it was again gorgeous. What a waste of time! The crowd coming by was stunned at the beauty, and for the next hour we had a stream of people with great questions after my narrative, and almost everyone profuse with their thanks for the view and the education. It was encouraging to have strong reaction to the stellar life cycle explanation, with some deep questions like determining the velocity of expansion and the shape of the planetary. I used an example of pressure waves moving through media. The pressure wave is affected by the density of the medium. When the initial "sneeze" of the increased stellar wind begins the end of life for the star, the outer hydrogen is moving in a vacuum but the succeeding oxygen wave is now moving through matter, and the new wave begins to catch up. The shape is related to the magnetic fields of the original star at end of life, and the nature of the stellar wind being blown off the dying star. Lots of good exposition, with lots of great questions. The crowd finally evaporated, and so did grandson Stephen and I. At the suggestion of a visitor, and my echo shouted over to him, John Carter shifted his galaxy tour to NGC4125 for a view of the supernova. The 275 or so people I was able to actually SHOW something to seemed a cut above prior year audiences. Now if I could only get out of my own way and not cause my own troubles!
  5. Last year we ran a novices star camp the weekend before the main Kielder Star Camp and it went down so well we are doing it again. Dates are 9 and 10 October at the improved Kielder Campsite (we now have warm room and much better drainage). We'll be deploying our telescopes, offering guidance and staging talks up at Kielder Castle. If you would like to come along bookings are via the campsite (who are the organisers with our help) - http://kieldercampsite.co.uk/peoples%20star%20party%20october%2015.html
  6. ....and as summer slips by thoughts are cast forward to the dark nights of October. The 13th Kielder Autumn Starcamp is being staged from 26 - 31 October. The recent CPRE night blight report found the darkest spot in England to be a Kielder hillside just a stone's throw away from our venue - Kielder Campsite. Talks on the main day (29 Oct) are all free - in fact all you need to do is pay for your pitch and you're done. Currently we have non-hooks ups available, but we do have a wonderful new warm room to escape the chill, with multiple charging points, tea/coffee making, armchairs and open 24/7. We'll also be running our free Friday night mulled wine/cider get together. All the details you need are at kielderstarcamp.org We hope you can join us.
  7. Following is a Thank You I sent to all GCSP volunteers for whom I had an email address. Grand Canyon Star Party Volunteers, I am sending my personal thanks for all your efforts, and to thank you all for how well everything came out. I’ll apologize for being somewhat late in getting this out; some of you know I had short-notice heart surgery four days after GCSP, and rehab is as good an excuse as any for the delay. All is going great, however, so call it luck of the Irish. This was an extremely special event, with the International Dark Sky Association designating Grand Canyon National Park as a Provisional International Dark Sky Park. There are now three years to complete the modifications for full status, which will correspond with the 2019 100th Anniversary of the Grand Canyon National Park. All of the volunteers at GCSPs over the 26 years played a role in this award, accomplishing an essential education and environmental awareness function that goes into the award determination. Well Done, everyone! CBS Morning News recognized this noteworthy event with a feature on Dark Skies along with the IDA award to GCNP. If you missed the showing of the news feature on August 12, you can view it at: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/grand-canyon-star-party-dark-sky-designation or on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3NpqDu__Cw It focuses attention on dark skies including video of a night at GCSP, and interviews with Ranger Rader Lane, IDA Program Director John Barrentine, and a great personal touch by our own astronomer volunteer Marina Corrieri. Mike Magras has established a Dropbox picture sharing site to post or view GCSP photos: https://www.dropbox.com/home/GCSP 2016, or contact Mike at mike@sargamites.net) I have to thank the NPS for all of the support before and during the event; Ranger Marker Marshall's exceptional coordination and behind the scenes arrangements and patience with my fumbling efforts, Rangers Mike Weaver, Ty Korlovetz and Rader Lane for their great assistance, and especially my grandkids Karina and Stephen who always looked for more to do, to help move things along. The weather was less favorable than recent years, but we set a record for volunteers at well over 120 astronomers, so the total contacts we accomplished will again be impressive. Our A-Team of outreach practitioners from around North America, England, and France made thousands of people aware of their universe, and touched a lot of people's lives. Special thanks to Kevin LeGore, founder and director of Focus Astronomy who arranged the donations of eight Celestron First Scopes to the Grand Canyon Association, which we awarded to eight young visitors at drawings at the end of the night theater talks. I really need to thank Mae Smith and Dr. Mary Turner for the special day time hands-on demonstrations of Space Rocks they did in front of the Visitor Center. What a great, personal interaction with the visitors! And thanks to all of you who set up during the day around the park with solar and planetary observing and spread the word of the night activities. Thanks also to our evening speakers. Each talk was a unique look at the night sky, from our place in the universe, wise lighting and light use, the inner workings of stars and their signatures, how eclipses occur and how and where to view the American Eclipse of 2017, personal interaction with the night skies, the starry nights of the Grand Canyon, and the unification of astral and geological effects and using several forms of light to compose striking images. Thanks again to Gary Fix (www.garytheastronomer.com) from Massachusetts, who once again presented his daily sextant lessons at the visitor center, then nightly set up with us out back and presented his study of Italian cathedrals their architectural demonstration of True North. Thanks also to George Barber and all of you helpers for all the effort to continue our traditional Thursday huevos rancheros breakfast! Finally, special gratitude to Mae Smith, who not only arranged the design contest, inventory purchase, and sales of this year’s GCSP T-Shirts, but also volunteered to be our point of contact in Mather Campground. Thanks VERY much, Mae! Once again, we left the Grand Canyon charged up for next year, June 17-24, 2017. THANK YOU ALL!!
  8. Hello, There is going to be a star party held on 15th September 2012 at Harbury Rugby FC in Warwickshire, not too far from Leamington Spa post code CV33 9JN. If you are interested in attending please visit www.onlineastronomysociety.com or contact events@onlineastronomysociety.com further details are posted in the forum section. If you would like to attend please book soon as places are very limited. Thank you
  9. 2016 26th Annual Grand Canyon Star Party In Memory Of Joe Orr DAY THREE - The Temperatures Drop Almost Ten Degrees, But Cloudy Early On Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft. elevation Weather: 90F mid-day, 82F at sunset, 48F when I quit near 11:30. Nunety percent cloud cover during the afternoon broke up to many patchy spots and light overcast all around until about 10 PM. Seeing and Transparency: Transparency very occulted until late. I didn't set up, so I can't judge the seeing but M51 looked very steady on one monitor. Sunset winds were again moderate, but not strong enough to blow the clouds out. Temperatures dropped a bit, still 5 degrees F above normal. Equipment: 10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount Mallincam Xterminator video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor. But tonight, only a laser pointer. This will be a short one. With the early heavy cloud cover, and needing to escort several news organizations and conduct the 10 PM Constellation Tour, I decided to have an easier night. Dr. John Barentine, Program Manager at the International Dark Sky Association in Tucson, AZ, was our speaker at the night's sunset talk. We were privileged to hear Dr. Barentine's wise light use presentation, and, as every night raffled off Celestron First Scope. Celestron again donated eight First Scopes for our week, thanks to my good friend for many years Kevin Legore, head of the Focus Astronomy outreach foundation and Celestron employee. Every night, a potential future Nobel Prize winner leaves with something to start their night sky exploration. When I left the auditorium to meet my first escort and interview task, the sky was awful for a constellation tour; at best, the planets were somewhat visible with the patchy thick clouds, but for the most part stars dimmer than about magnitude 2.5 were lost and in spots, whole constellations would be absent as well as Saturn. I started looking around for my CBS News contact, but they had been clever and while we were inside for the talk, did walk around interviews with the astronomers so I was off the hook. Check CBS Morning News on Sunday. Since it was after 9 PM and I had the 10 PM tour, I didn't bother setting up and acted as a roving information source, doing mini-sky tours for groups of visitors exploring the site. I was fortunate to have the clouds almost completely evaporate starting about 9:55 PM, so I took my group of about 25 over to the adjacent parking lot and was able to do a high quality (for me!) cultural tour of our home universe. We started with the planetary lineup and the recently set three day old crescent moon to the 7:40 PM sunset point, delineating the ecliptic plane and the path of the Sun through the year. I swithed definitions to rename the path in Greek Zo=living, dia=Day, cos=solar related, and Kyklos, or Cycle, so we had the Zodiacos Kyklos, the cycle of living things for the annual cycle of daytime locations of the sun. We shorten that to The Zodiac, with each constellation along the Sun's annual cycle representing a living object. We had a whole lot of exposition of the audience's "Home Universe", in the point of views of many Native American, Hindu, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Sumerian aspects. It was a very enthusastic crowd for our 40 minute exploration, and I had a whole sky to work with! I killed time in various wanderings for about an hour, then left as one of our Ranger's for the evening, Rader Lane, was begining his interview with Page from CBS Morning News. It really was a very enjoyable night with the visitors despite never uncovering the scope. As I write this on Tuesday morning, the sky is clear and the temperatures are predicted to be more reasonable. Another windbreaker night, thank goodness! It was so uplifting to have so many one-on-a-few discussions of the visible night sky, compared to dozens at the monitor looking at a gorgeous piece of eye candy. It fealt great to know that what I was providing to them, they can take home and appreciate the beauty of the dark night sky. Another priceless night here on the South Rim. Jim O'Connor South Rim Coordinator Grand Canyon Star Party gcsp@tucsonastronomy.org
  10. 2016 26th Annual Grand Canyon Star Party In Memory Of Joe Orr DAY ONE - Great Start Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft. elevation Weather: 97F mid-day, 93F at sunset, 62F when we quit near 00:30. Totally clear skies. Seeing and Transparency: Transparency OK but recent wildfires have left a bit of obscurration. The well about seasonal temperatures have the upper atmosphere very unsteady. However, because of the performance of the system, I kept the setup at full focal length and doubled the power in software to 620X. Equipment: 10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount Mallincam Xterminator video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor. First, about the name of this year's event. We honor and remember Joe Orr, a lifelong astronomer who often participated in GCSP. Behind the scenes, without much fanfare, Joe provided a large donation for the Grand Canyon Dark Skies program. He also spent a lot of time building and rehabilitating hiking trails at the Canyon and provided financial support as well. He provided a portion of the funding to repair the Clark Refractor at Lowell Observatory, made many other physical and financial aids to parks and observatories across Texas and Arizona, and served on the board of directors at McDonald Observatory in Texas. He passed away far too early in life from pancreatic cancer in late 2013. He left a significant bequest to Grand Canyon National Park's Dark Skies program, and I personally will miss him as he did his last constellation tours for us at the 2013 Grand Canyon Star Party. We are being baked alive. For the rest of the star party, predictions are a minimum of high 90s, with some show two to four days at over 102F. YIKES. That's bring upper layer instability that hurts the image a bit, but we did OK. A bit about our volunteers. Usually, I get about 90 astronomers request the registration packs, but this year I'm at 110! And while we end up with close to 110 or so who show up during the week, I can only imagine what mid-week will bring. The first Saturday is usually our minimum participation at about 35 astronomers, but tonight we had over 50. We started off the evening with the night talk by Dean Regas, Astronomer and Outreach head at Cincinnati Observatory as well as being the co-host of the PBS nightly Star Gazer television short, following in the footsteps of the late Jack Horkeimer. Dean is an awesome communicator. He presented a fascinating unveiling of the size of the universe, starting locally with the Earth and Moon, and using Mintaka and Stellarium, expanded the exposition from local, then the rocky planets, out to the gas giants, the sun's long reach and out to the Oort cloud, then local stars, our galaxy out to other galaxies, and finally out the the full Universe we know, in many different alternative points of view, well laced with humor and at a scale where the elementary school children in our audience were very actively involved. An awesome presentation, and we have him back again tonight. I had set up the night before so that while we were indoors, my granddaughter Karina to do the demonstrations but the sun set to late to get a target planet before we went inside to set up the talk. I got back out to the setup at 9 PM, swung it over to Saturn, and operated at the full f/10 of the SCT while using the internal camera software to double the power. Saturn was a bit boiling at over 600X, but the audince loved it. I started at 9:10 PM or so, and couldn't stop until well after midnight. With the Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn available, I chose Saturn because Jupiter was just too indistinct at the power I was running, while Saturn showed off the color variation between the yellow-brown planet and the intensely white icy rings. Crowd loved it when the seeing would snap the rings into the banded form they display, and there was always a very striking planet shadow on the rear ring disk. While I had plans for a couple of planetary nebulae, M13, and several galaxies, the crowd would not let me move off of Saturn! Great discussions, I was able to mix in the comparison of the eclipic plane with the zodiacal interpretation. At the start we still had Gemini, so while the image of Saturn floated etherially on the monitor, I was able to do a sky walk using Saturn as the anchor, move through Mars and Jupiter and the remaining Zodiacal Light for those mainline constellations, although the Zodiacal Light wipes out Cancer the Crab. But following the ecliptic/zodiak highway, the crowds enjoyed seeing the "why" certain constellations came in order. Gemini to Cancer to a fantastic Leo (never got to try the M66 supernova - too many people!), then over to Virgo and the martini glass next to Spica and explainint the meaning of Spica as an ear of wheat, residing in the goddess of fertility. Scorpius, and finally Sagittarius, completed the arc of the ecliptic and demonstration of the angular tilt of the Earth's axis. As the night wore on, different clusters of 15 or 20 visitors were interested in different aspects of the night sky, so I was able to shift gears to the norhern sky, work in Hindu, Navajo, Seminole, and Akimel O'odham points of view of different approaches to what was seen. It was a tremendous blast all night, and I must admit I've never had people clap for exposition as they moved on, but it happened twice! All the while, Saturn, wiggly as it was at times, pulling in people like moths. I did have one young visitor, about six, and her parents stop by rather late and she seemed overwhelmed by it all. Leo changed that. When I drew the outline of the lion, and pointed above it to The Big Dipper, she could finally see shapes in the sky; with the Dipper located as it is above or to the side of Polaris, it is an upside down Dipper. OR, the Elephant of Creation! And that means in some cultures, you have to be on your best behavior because God is watching. And she could really see the lion and got very excited at going from the unkown mass of stars to the known figure. Another singularly awesome moment of awakening of a young mind. I also had the opportunity, as the Milky Way finally rose itnto visibility, to go through several non-Western cultural points of view. This is the part of astronomy that can really bring a bit of warmth to the old heart - someone walking away with a new view of their home universe. You know you've done OK when they walk away looking up, not just straight ahead. All with Saturn patiently waiting to show off it's own unique character. Jim O'Connor South Rim Coordinator Grand Canyon Star Party gcsp@tucsonastronomy.org
  11. At Grand Canyon Star Party, we do both day and night public outreach. Here, Michael Turner took some pictures of Dr. Mary Turner, our club's Chief Observer, and Mae Smith, our club Vice President, in front of the Grand Canyon Visitor Center one day.
  12. For those of you reading this forum who might find yourselves in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon National Park next June, the 24th annual Grand Canyon Star Party (GCSP) will be held the nights of June 21 through 28, 2014, in northern Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park. GCSP is an annual collaboration between the National Park Service and astronomers from around North America (and occasionally the world, with Aussie, Brit, Canadian, Mexican, and even Russian astronomers participating) to bring astronomy outreach to Park visitors. Drop boxes for priory ear photos: 2012: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ig0ay236lstbf6j/A2zK2xBRlC 2013: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/r1guixk59j2lmlq/jX8qyhWG29 Amateur astronomers with a telescope and love of the sky to share, and the interested public of all ages, are invited to experience the beautiful Arizona nights in an exploration of the heavenly Grand Canyon skies. Not an astronomer? Drop in for an unforgettable and fabulous vacation for families, singles, and seniors. GCSP will be held concurrently on both the North and South Rims. Visitors to the park are free to show up at their leisure, and observe through any or all telescopes. Astronomers choosing to set up for the event need to register in advance with the appropriate coordinator below. The South Rim can accommodate 80 or more telescopes, and we have not had to limit South Rim attendance thus far. The dozen or so North Rim slots on the Lodge veranda, however, usually are accounted for by the end of February. In general, volunteer astronomers are responsible for securing their own lodging, and, due to the nature of the venues for both rims, telescopes generally need to be set up and taken down each night. Please see the North Rim site for unique arrangements for that venue. Web sites and contact information are shown below. Please contact Steve for the North Rim, or me for the South Rim, if you are interested in attending or for questions you might have. North Rim http://www.saguaroastro.org/content/2014GrandCanyonStarPartyNorthRim.htm Steve Dodder Coordinator, North Rim, Grand Canyon Star Party 53750 W. Prickley Pear Rd. Maricopa, AZ 85239 E-mail: fester00 [at] hotmail.com Phone: 602-390-0118 Grand Canyon Star Party - North Rim South Rim http://www.tucsonastronomy,org/gcsp-2 Jim O’Connor Coordinator, South Rim, Grand Canyon Star Party P.O. Box 457 Cortaro, AZ 85652 E-mail: gcsp [at] tucsonastronomy.org Phone: 520 546-2961
  13. Provisional dates for the 11th Kielder Forest Star Camp in Northumberland are 2 - 7 October 2013. Bookings will open on 1 March 2013. If you are wondering why we chose this early slot it is to give Galloway Star Camp a clear run in November - there's a healthy cross-over of folk going to both. We have also updated the image gallery for the 2012 Autumn event - check it out at http://bit.ly/TIRWNP Any queries please PM me. Thanks, Richard
  14. 2016 26th Annual Grand Canyon Star Party In Memory Of Joe Orr DAY SEVEN - Virtual Wipe Out Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft. elevation Weather: Chilly, windy, overcast at sunset and huge weather front moving in. Seeing and Transparency: Non-existent. Only Moon and Jupiter barely detectable in the overcast, disappearing by 9:15 PM. Thunderstorms forecast for 1-5 AM. Equipment (packed up for the night): 10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount, operating all night at f/5 Mallincam Xterminator video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor. The weather caught up to us. All day the satellite radar and IR showed a huge cell moving in from the southeast with lightning and heavy rain. We tried, though. About six to ten scopes were set up on Jupiter and the Moon, but thick overcast everywhere. We carried on with the indoor night talk and tried two of the Constellation Tours in a modified way, but gave up when lightning was getting closer as the front moved Northwest from Flagstaff. Dr. Andy Odell, Professor Emeritus in Astrophysics now retired from Northern Arizona University and doing further research at Lowell Observatory, was our speaker. Andy's talk was on Stellar Clusters and Stellar Evolution, and we needed to kick it off. After getting some equipment gremlins out of the way, we were off and running. Dr. Odell's talk was a fascinating comparison of the inner workings of a star, compared to how members of a cluster show the signatures related to their size and age. Starting with the Hertsprung-Russell diagram to illustrate, in effect, the family portrait of stars and how we can characterize and classify what we see. Then he jumped into the forecasting of stellar phenomena from the inside out, as the star goes through its evolution. His wealth of cluster photographs allowed him to make the point of determining the age and nature of the cluster and its members told the story visually. I headed out early to try the 9 PM Constellation tour. I did the talk from the perspective of why cultures needed and used the night sky. Since only Jupiter and the Moon were vaguely visible in the overcast, I used their orientation to do the whole ecliptic and zodiac discussion. Then we faced around northward, I drew the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia on the clouds, and was able to do a lot of exposition on Greek, Near East (Elephant of Creation), and Navajo cultural use of the asterism and constellations including Polaris between them, all with just the laser pointer. We spent time on the location where the Milky Way would be found, and used Greek, Seminole, and O'odham conceptual use of the the arms of the Milky Way. We talked a bit about comparative cultural use of Scorpius (another sketch on the cloud bank) and Orion by the Greek legends and Zeus separating them as an example to separate our conflicts, and the Navajo seeing the scorpion as a wise elder with a back bent from age, showing planting with the tail being unrelated rabbit tracks, and Orion being the warrior symbol as an example for preparedness. But for the Navajo, the Great One and the Thin One are also called the Mother-In-Law and the Son-In-Law. The are separated in the lore and in real life, as it is traditional that when a Navajo girl gets married, her husband and mother are not allowed to see or speak to each other for the rest of their lives. We did a few more examples from more well known asterisms in the sky, and how various cultures used them, so we had a great 35 minute sky tour with NO sky! I had 18 guests at the talk, but by the time I got back to the scope lot Ranger Marker Marshall was doing the 9:30 PM tour as a teaching lesson in using a sky map without the sky. She had about 8 or 10 people, but everyone else had seen the lightning moving in on the horizon and the visitors were now gone, and scopes packed up. Got some early sleep! Saturday is the final day/night and promises to be clear. We'll hold the traditional last day Pot Luck in the campground, and then go on for one final night in a great week.
  15. 2016 26th Annual Grand Canyon Star Party In Memory Of Joe Orr DAY SIX - Lots Of Wind Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft. elevation Weather: 86F mid-day, 76F at sunset, 47F when I quit near midnight. Some random clouds of various nature all around at sunset that cleared as the night went on, with very gusty conditions. Seeing and Transparency: Transparency seemed the best it's been with the strong winds out of the NW clearing the wildfire effects. Steady seeing but constant strong gusts all evening really took away any ability to do video of much duration with my setup very high off the ground to allow aligning on higher elevation stars. Equipment: 10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount, operating all night at f/5 Mallincam Xterminator video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor. The five day crescent moon was an easy catch, and again I centered on the Sea of Crises area, now with Sea of Fertility available. We had more of the Lunar Poodle starting to come into view, and again the conversation with the visitors would start with the creation of Luna, and the features causedd by the Late Heavy Bombardment about 3.5 billion years ago. A very nice session before the night talk, with about 150 total visitors passing by. The night show was the usual excellent talk my counterpart, Interpretive Ranger Marker Marshall, performs called Starry Starry Nights - The Universe As Seen From The Grand Canyon. A perfect integration of use of correct lighting, blending into the awakening of the National Park Service to the protection of the night sky, and going into the nature of our galaxy, important constellations, planetary alignments, and key stars in the local night sky. Always well received, a great one stop shop of a national park, the night sky, and protecting the view with wise use of lighting. We raffled off the nightly Celestron First Scope, and I headed out to see how Karina was doing. I got back to the scope around 9:10 PM and found that for some reason the camera had reset. Karina tried to get the settings back, and rebuild the alignment mask. She tried going to Saturn, but my kick of the tripod leg the night before hat the alignment off enough to not being able to center it, so she had gone back to the moon. I picked up the thread, but noticed the brightness of the moon was losing details. I hadn't noticed in my checkout that the AGC (Gain) was set to full ON, so off course the moon was not achievable in detail. I aligned the scope on Antares and brought in globular cluster M4. We were able to tell the globular cluster story the rest of the night; I should have known something was amiss when I got got the full cluster at 2.1 seconds integration but with the temperature under 50 F, and the wind was gusting to 20 MPH or more, the view alternated between smears and spectacular diamonds nearly filling the monitor. Along with the glob story, I was able to do a lot of cultural discussion as the Milky Way rose. It was now after 11 PM and both visitors and astronomers were evaporating, so I started the packup. That's when I noticed the full gain setting. No wonder the screen was full of stars! I had noticed polar drifting so, before shutting down, I re-did the polar alignment to compensate for last night's kick of the tripod leg. We had an exciting magnitude 8 Iridium flare in the middle of the session. Since I had been a test director for Iridium during the development and initial launch phase as a consultant at Motorola in the mid-1990s, my crowd got a good exposition on what we were seeing and why, the nature of the satellite system's architecture, and the source of the name. Originally, the satellite network would require 77 satellites, the atomic number of the element Iridium. Later analysis would show only 66 satellites were required for the initial system, but that is the atomic number of Dysprosium. No way was THAT name ever going to be used for a commercial product, other than perhaps a digestive aid, so the name Iridium is the one that is used. Once again, the real story is the people, both visitors and astronomers. John Carter next to me had his scope at minimum height and was hardly affected at all by the gusts and once again showing off an awesome M51 in his 24" monitor. And the people have all been fascinated and enthusiastic not only about whatever object I have, but also how cultures have used the sky for so many thousands of years. Friday, Day 6, has a threat of thunderstorms so it is unclear what the weather will bring us.
  16. 2016 26th Annual Grand Canyon Star Party In Memory Of Joe Orr DAY FIVE - Another Fantastic Night With The Visitors Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft. elevation Weather: 89F mid-day, 79F at sunset, 48F when I quit near midnight. Quite a few clouds of various nature all around at sunset, with some clearing out as the evening wore on. Seeing and Transparency: Transparency again somewhat obstructed by high altitude moisture and wildfire remnants. Steady seeing above about 30 degrees elevation, but a bit of swimming at lower elevations. Strong gusts after about 10:45 really took away any ability to do video of much duration with my setup. Equipment: 10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount, operating all night at f/5 Mallincam Xterminator video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor. Not much going on in the day time. I haven't done any solar this trip because of the heat and trying to save energy for the evening. But the afternoon and evening were very successful in visitor outreach. With the four day crescent moon, I was on it at 5:30 PM. I set the exposure and white balance so that the gorgeous blue sky highlighted the bright crescent. Wirh the relatively long focal length of my setup, the moon, even in such a limited crescent state, over fills the monitor. I centered on Mare Crisium, with the surrounding dry craters providing good contrast. We had to take a break for half an hour to do a dry run of the night talk in the theater, then back to the moon. It was a very nice hour afterward of discussing the likely source of Crisium and the Late Heavy Bombardment about 3.5 billion years ago, and the 2-1 resonance of Jupiter and Saturn intitiating the incoming asteroids, as well as the current ideas of lunar formation due to the early collision of the planet Theia and the earth, the resulting debris field and lunar formation, and the effect of stabilizing the wobbling Earth and possibly allowing the development of regular season and the ability for life to evolve from one and two celled life forms. I also had them imagine Crisium as a pom-pom tail of a show cut poodle, and drew an imaginary line to the shadowed maria of Serenity, Tranquility, and Fecundity making up the rest of the poodle that would emerge in a few days of the lunation. A very nice session before the night talk, with about 150 total visitors passing by. We went in to kick off the night's presentation. One of our astronomer volunteers, Chap Percival from Sarasota, Florida, is somewhat of an eclipse chaser and afficianado has written a book, Go See The Eclipse - And Take A Kid With You. The main focus was on the American Eclipse on August 21, 2017, where the United States will be the only land mass to experience the event. He presented the meaning of an eclipse, and how the alignment of the Earth, Sun, and Moon generate eclipse opportunities. He used two young folks in the audience to help demonstrate the relative scales of the objects, and their distances with a 12 inch ball for the Earth, a 3" Christmas ornament for the Moon, and a slide on the theater screen of EPCOT as the Sun. After the demonstration, he covered the eclipse path next year, and local factors along the way. At the end, we again raffled off a Celestron First Scope thanks to Kevin LeGore and his Focus Astronomy Foundation and Celestron's donation of eight First Scopes for our week. I got back to the scope around 9:10 PM and tried to bring in Saturn but the Telrad was misaligned so I went and did a little more Moon, then had to break away to do the 10 PM Constellation Tour. Following that great experience of the culture and science mix of the night sky, I aligned the scope on Antares and brought in globular cluster M4. We were able to tell the globular cluster story to about a dozen passers by, but that didn't last long since the temperature had dropped under 50 F, and the wind was gusting to 20 MPH or more. The glob was becoming a smear of stars, but the true color of the population of reddish very old stars was on screen with the right choice of integration time and setting the white balance. By now, however, it was after 11 PM and both visitors and astronomers were evaporating, so granddaughter Karina and I did the packup process and left. This time I did not make a single mistake in settings or alignment, until the very end when I was rolling the heavy marine battery over to the take away equipment, and tripped on a tripod leg. Big sigh. Polar alignment AGAIN tomorrow night. Jim O'Connor South Rim Coordinator Grand Canyon Star Party gcsp@tucsonastronomy.org
  17. 2016 26th Annual Grand Canyon Star Party In Memory Of Joe Orr DAY EIGHT - Heavy Clouds At Sunset That Gradually Cleared Late Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft. elevation Weather: Chilly and windy, with another huge weather front moving in. Predictions said early clearing, but that did not happen until nearly 10 PM. Seeing and Transparency: Non-existent until after about 9 when some holes opened, then spread out clear. Thunderstorms forecast for early morning did not happen, but some raindrops were fealt around 9 PM but the sky cleared later. Equipment (did not set up tonight): 10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount, operating all night at f/5 Mallincam Xterminator video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor. Today was the final day pot luck, this time in the campground. It was a nice final gathering, but we could see the clouds forming during the early afternoon. Still, it's always nice to see the faces behind the voices we hear around us at night. The weather from yesterday left, only to be replaced by more thick and threatening skies. I had packed up the night before, and wasn't feeling terribly well I didn't bother setting up at all. The group tried, though, with about thirty telescopes in position. Not even the Moon nor Jupiter were burning through as the sun went down and we went in to start the night talk. Dennis Young, from the Sirius Lookers in Sedona, was our presenter at the sunset talk, showing off a set of phenomenally beautiful combinations of scenic geological views with astronomical themes, comets passing by some of the spectacular red rock formations in Sedona, and other unique geological locations in Arizona, demonstrating a variety of lighting tools to bring out the beauty of sky and land, water and rock, cactus and comets. He ended with a couple of short videos. The first was a well-produced message about the negative affects on human health and general environmental impacts. The second was a compilation of thousands of Cassini images of Saturn into a dynamic movie forming a spectacular full screen view of Cassini's path to, and past, Saturn and through the ring plane, including moons as the craft flew through. After the indoor night talk and award of the final two Celestron First Scopes, I came out to find only Vega in the Eastern sky. Without a scope set up, I volunteered to do the 9 and 10 PM Constellation tours, with the main themes being the cultural use of the night sky throughout history. Once again, I led the 9 PM Constellation tour, starting from the perspective of why cultures needed and used the night sky using examples of 100,000 and 26,000 year discoveries. I was somewhat surprised that over 30 visitors risked the night adventure to come out and join the tour. I again used the Moon and Jupiter, and later Mars and Saturn breaking through the thinning cloud cover, to discus the ecliptic and zodiac orientation. Some segments of the night sky were coming and going, so I was able to repeat last night's alternative cultural approaches to the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia, and was able to do a lot of exposition on Greek, Near East (Elephant of Creation), and Navajo cultural use of the asterism and constellations including Polaris between them, all with just the laser pointer. Parts of the Milky Way were appearing, and we used Greek, Seminole, and O'odham conceptual use of the the arms of the Milky Way. Scorpius was now uncovered, allowing the comparative cultural uses of Scorpius and Orion by the Greek legends and Zeus separating them as an example to separate our conflicts, and the Navajo seeing the scorpion as a wise elder with a back bent from age, with the tail being unrelated rabbit tracks, and Orion being the warrior symbol as an example for preparedness. But for the Navajo, the First Great One and the First Thin One are also called the Mother-In-Law and the Son-In-Law. The are separated in the lore and in real life, as it is traditional that when a Navajo girl gets married, her husband and mother are not allowed to see or speak to each other for the rest of their lives. With Mars and Antares now visible, I shifted to the Greek name for Mars, Ares, the god of war, and Antares, as the place where the spirits of the soldiers who had died in battle are now reposing. We did a few more examples from more well known asterisms in the sky, and how various cultures used them, so we had a great 35 minute sky tour! By the time of the 10 PM tour, the sky had virtually cleared, so the tour had real life sky characteristics with which to repeat the topics of the earlier tour with more emphasis on the visible elements such as the Summer Triangle and the alternative to Cygnus being Niska the Goose for Manitoba First Nations cultures as it indicates the migratory flyways for the returning geese and the opportunity for a change in protein source. It is always encouraging to seen the enlightenment arise in the audiences as the usage of the artifacts of the night have a cultural use, adapted by cultures going back thousands of years. To teach behavior and self-discipline to children, the Elephant of Creation is watching so better behave. Alternatively, Milky Way forming a magical spider web that a child violating a tribal rule might get stuck to so the parents can retrieve the young one are teaching tools, as well as all of the other guidelines in the sky for life lessons, from how we should interract with each other, to planting and harvesting regimens. One hundred thousand years or more have shown various cultural uses of the night sky, and to learn one's own culture it is sometimes helpful to study others. At the end of the tour, the sky was cleared and visitors were still hanging around as well as some of the intrepid astronomers showing off the wonders of the night sky, some still going after midnight and with high winds and temperatures down in the mid-40s. Thus ends another year of fostering environmental awareness, the special achievement of Provisional International Dark Sky Park status, awarding eight Celestron First Scopes, and some absolutely gorgeous views of the objects of the night skies, all elements of the viewers' home universe. It would not be at all possible without the outstanding efforts by our A-Team of outreach specialists donating their time and equipment to this adventure, as well as the support of the National Park Service Ranger staff. The hard physical work for their setup begins several days in advance, and now, on Sunday night after a long day of de-configuring all of the traffic controls and signage, there still is more effort to finish the clean up. It is very inspirational to watch this incredible staff work with the public. They have an internal mantra that I wish I could fully adapt in my own life...whatever the circumstances, Ranger On. We stayed the extra day for R&R, fix some of the Park's spotter scope solar filters, and perform some other administrative functions before the trip home. Now the truck is all packed, we're looking forward to a full night's sleep, and an early trip home.
  18. Hi all, I wrote earlier about a Star Party here in Sweden, now I have been on a second one this year, the MAK or Mariestad Star Party. I took some photos from the party and wrote some text to it for all people that couldn't visit the party, you can see them here: http://www.astrofriend.eu/travel/sweden/mariestad-star-party-2018/mariestad-star-party-2018.html There is also some photos from the travel to the party and back home. I hope some of you can visit Sweden in the future. BR Lars
  19. Hi All, I'm looking at putting together a new star party for Wiltshire and wondered if there would be any interest in it at the present time. Its still in the initial stages but i've found a venue that looks suitable and also has facilities on site such as a cafe/bar/toilets/showers etc and more importantly lovely views of the sky all round. Considering dates I am looking at running this in September so not too cold for camping or we can even do this in winter as there is accomodation on site also. There is also the chance of a place to secure your scopes and equipment on site so if people do want to go out for the day they can be sure their equipment is safe and secure. If anyone might be interested in this party then please do let me know so i can potentially gauge numbers/costs etc Regards Dave
  20. The 28th annual Grand Canyon Star Party (GCSP) will be held June 9 through 16, 2018, in northern Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park. GCSP is an annual collaboration between the National Park Service and astronomers from around North America and often the world to bring astronomy outreach to Park visitors. New Moon will be June 13, mid-week, making giving us dark skies for most of the week while providing a few days of crescent moon for the visitors on the last few nights. Amateur astronomers with a telescope and love of the sky to share, and the interested public of all ages, are invited to experience the beautiful Arizona nights in an exploration of the heavenly Grand Canyon skies. Not an astronomer? Drop in for an unforgettable and fabulous vacation for families, singles, and seniors. GCSP will be held concurrently on both the North and South Rims. Visitors to the park are free to show up at their leisure, and observe through any or all telescopes. Astronomers choosing to set up for the event need to register in advance with the appropriate coordinator below. The South Rim can accommodate 80 or more telescopes, and we have not had to limit South Rim attendance thus far. The ten or so North Rim slots on the Lodge veranda, however, usually are accounted for by the end of February. In general, volunteer astronomers should pre-register with the coordinator for the Rim they wish to join. Astronomers are responsible for securing their own lodging, and, due to the nature of the venues for both rims, telescopes generally need to be set up and taken down each night. Please see the North Rim site for unique arrangements for that venue. For the South Rim, we have space reserved for larger instruments, and a second reserved area at the entrance for live video setups, that may be left in place for the duration. Visitor attendance at the Grand Canyon National Park has increased by 50% over the last four years, and lodging has become difficult to get less than four or five months in advance. In fact, Trailer Village has been filled for the June event as early as January for the last two years. If you are planning to attend, make reservations at the earliest opportunity. Accommodation information can be found at the web sites below. At the South Rim component, over the past several years the day time outreach has grown significantly, with daytime hands-on demonstrations on astronomical topics at the Main Visitor Center and occasionally in the Bright Angel area, indoor demonstrations at the visitor center, and solar, lunar, and planetary observing during the day around the park. Also at the South Rim, at the Visitor Center theater we will have a variety of nightly presentations by a great group of speakers as the twilight deepens. Web sites and contact information are shown below. Please contact Steve for the North Rim, or me for the South Rim, if you are interested in attending or for questions you might have. North Rim http://www.saguaroastro.org/content/2018GrandCanyonStarParty.html Steve Dodder Coordinator, North Rim, Grand Canyon Star Party 53750 W. Prickley Pear Rd. Maricopa, AZ 85239 E-mail: fester00 [at] hotmail.com Phone:602-390-0118 South Rim http://tucsonastronomy.org/upcoming-events/grand-canyon-star-party/ Jim O’Connor Coordinator, South Rim, Grand Canyon Star Party P.O. Box 457 Cortaro, AZ 85652 E-mail: gcsp [at] tucsonastronomy.org Phone: 520 546-2961
  21. Date Event Venue Saturday 25/11/2017 6-30pm to 9pm Star Party The National Botanic Garden of Wales is hosting a Star Party, in partnership with Swansea Astronomical Society and AstroCymru, with afternoon astronomy activities from 2pm until 5:30pm, and the Star Party from 6pm until 10pm. Afternoon astronomy activities cost £3 per child, with a Meteors & Maths (age approx. 8+) workshop running for half an hour starting at 2pm, 3pm ,4pm & 5pm. Rocket making and D2E sessions with AstroCymru will run from 2pm till 5:30pm. The Star Party at 6pm costs £3 per child, if they have paid for the afternoon activities there won’t be a need to pay again. Accompanying adults are free but donations are welcomed. A family ticket is £6 (2 adults and up to 4 children). For guides/scouts/brownies/cubs etc. groups, the cost for the Star Party is £3 per child, with accompanying adults free. We will be able to explore the Moon, just past its first quarter and, if we are lucky, we might see Uranus & Neptune. We will also use Orion to star hop so we can find the Pleiades. While the stargazing is weather dependent we will be able to run activities inside the Great Glass House if the weather is poor. Food and drink will be available in the Med Café. National Botanic Garden of
  22. Heads up - this event will take place on 14 - 19 October 2015 in the heart of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park. Bookings will open late February and I'll post more details then. Clear skies. Rich
  23. Star Party in Vogelsberg / Gedern, Germany (about an hour north of Frankfurt) 28May-1June http://www.teleskoptreffen.de/fileadmin/downloads/ITV_Internationales_Teleskoptreffen_Vogelsberg.pdf Google map: http://goo.gl/maps/G8kNA I'm a little over an hour away so depending on the weather... hoping for clear skies \o/
  24. Event: Oracle State Park Star Party Date: Saturday September 23, 2017 Location: Oracle State Park, Oracle AZ, about 4400 ft elevation Weather: Clear skies, mid-80s at home in Marana, AZ about 35 miles southwest of the park 5:45 PM, dropping to mid-50s in the park to around 9:00 PM when done. Seeing: and Transparency: Generally good. Equipment: 10" f/10 Meade 2120 SCT operating at f/5 (1270mm) for deep sky, Orion EQ-G Atlas mount, Mallincam Xterminator live video camera, QFX 19" LCD 12V monitor, Werker deep cycle 100 amp-hour power supply with A/C inverter. I usually try to have my equipment set up and ready to go well before sunset since my method of public outreach involves both a telescope and a live video presentation of the day and night sky. This is to enable participation by visitors who might have mobility or vision issues, or smaller children who have not yet developed the ability to visualize the eye candy in an eyepiece (it takes from about age five to as late as age 7 to build the out-of-context discrimination capability in the maturing brain). I rely on the live video display on a monitor to help those who might have difficulty accessing an eyepiece or processing the image. Unfortunately for me, I came down with a bit of food poisoning in late afternoon and did not get to OSP until after sunset. I knew there would be at least five other telescopes set up, but I really like the visitors who attend events here. Through their efforts, park management, and volunteers, two years ago they completed the work to get the site designated an International Dark Sky Site by the International Darksky Association and they really do appreciate their environment, both day and night. I scrambled to get my stuff crammed into the astronomer gaggle, but I wasn't set up until well after 7 PM. The visitors at the other scopes, and the volunteers showing the home universe to the audience, were great to listen to while I fumbled around in the dark. Then came the usual annoyances when setting up late; somehow my polar alignment was way off, and the focus of the scope was hugely off the mark. It took about 20 minutes on the setting moon to even find a bright object to get the focus fixed. After that, it was a wonderful night. The camera performed greatly. Usually, aligning and pointing would take about 20 minutes, but I threw the rules out into the bushes and did some old geezer tricks. I remembered where Polaris should be in the Polar scope for that time of night, and polar aligned first. That's a cheat for this mount, because then all I need is to find a star near my target and not worry about multiple star pattern matching. Polar took a minute, Schedar in Cassiopeia took two minutes, and done. Jumped right to The Owl Cluster, NGC 457, one of those few objects that looks like it's name. It filled the 19" monitor, a cluster of about 150 or so stars making a pointillist image of an owl spreading its wings. This is a fascinating object for young, and old, alike because it does look like an owl spreading its wings, an amazing 8-9,000 light years away yet very bright, indicating the large size of these relatively new stars, about 22 million years in some references. Being so big, they won't last very long. Since I can rotate the camera and give it any orientation, for Halloween I show it off upside down as The Bat for kids. For about fifteen or twenty years, it picked up the colloquial names of The ET Cluster or the Johnny Five Cluster, after the movies ET and Short Circuit, and I even had scouts at a Davis-Monthan AFB camporee call it The F-15, but mostly it has reverted back to The Owl although there is an accepted name of Kachina Doll. The challenge I gave my visitors was to spot the color variations in the constituent stars. Stars look white unless you test yourself, then the subtleties of the stellar temperatures start invading the consciousness. Cold stars are reddish, hot stars are bluish, with some of the red lost in the infrared and invisible, and some of the blue up in the ultraviolet also lost to our vision. Lots of teaching can happen here. Well, on to the pretty stuff. I swung the scope over to Sagittarius and the star Nunki, the top left star in the teapot handle. Aligning there, it made all of the gorgeous items toward the core of the Milky Way Galaxy available. I jumped over to M22, a globular cluster over the lid of the teapot. This is one of the top four beautiful globs, along with Omega Centaurus, M13 in Hercules, and M4 next to Antares in Scorpius. Globs are weirdly interesting collections. Although the Milky Way is on the order of 7.5 billion years old, these constituent elements' stars approach 12 billion years of age. What's up with that? Several theories have been proposed. Cores of small, old galaxies cannibalized in the formation of the Milky Way, or maybe a huge gas cloud formed a million or more stars in such a small region that their mutual gravity kept them from dissipating, or perhaps multiple smaller clusters of stars passed each other and their mutual gravity bound them into a single object. Some years ago, Kitt Peak National Observatory was part of a study to use non-visible frequencies to track the beehive of motion at the center of some globs, and sure enough, supermassive black holes were found at the cores of the first few studied. That's an indication that these are the cores of old galaxies integrated into the Milky Way. But wait a minute. A few more were studied, no black hole, and all the stars were about the same age. OK, a second theory might also be in play. Then, while studying globs around nearby galaxies, mixed ages of stars and no black holes were discovered. Wow, all three theories seem to be valid. So these tight beehives of fast moving aging stars have multiple possible sources. One remaining mystery is why the Milky Way only has less than 180 of these in highly elliptical orbits around the core of our galaxy, when others in our local group have as many as 4,000 globular clusters. And using the camera with its color sensitivity, we were able to see some of the stars in M22 are approaching end of life and can be seen as red giants among the white diamonds. With that teaching accomplished we moseyed on over to M8, The Lagoon, formally labeled a "Cluster With Nebulosity", meaning stars are still forming out of the gas cloud. For billions of years, a hydrogen cloud, sometimes with other elements added in from past supernovas in the vicinity, will be hanging around without the density to pull together and start star formation. The something will happen to change the environment, perhaps a passing star, or maybe a supernova, and the local density somewhere in the cloud will pass the equilibrium state and start contracting, eventually compressing into enough heat and pressure to initiate nuclear fusion and a star is born. The new star blasts out an initial pressure wave that triggers another, and another, and each triggers more cascading star formation. That's The Lagoon; one half newly formed stars densely packed, the other half a gas cloud waiting its turn. We were treated to a bright red emission nebula of gas cloud, energized by the hot new stars and the ultraviolet energy of formation causing the remaining gas cloud to fluoresce a brilliant red along side the tight cluster of bright new stars. More great teaching opportunities. We finished up on M17, The Swan Nebula that looks like, well, a glowing gaseous mass in the form of a swan. The teaching moment here is that the red textured emission nebula, while appearing in the form of a swan, is not, really. The area around the head has the shape of a swan's head and neck because of an intervening dust cloud. The young hot stars, whose energy is causing the gas cloud to glow red as an emission nebula, are completely hidden inside and behind the dust cloud. However, advances in infrared technology finally unveiled the cause for the glowing emission nebula of The Swan. A very nice way to end the evening. Well, what started as a chaotic swirl for me ended up a very nice night with what usually proves to be some of the best audiences in my ten events or so each month. OSP gets a special audience who are a joy to work with, as well as the park staff (missed Jennifer Rinio this time, since she was not with us) and the help and efforts by Mike Weasner and volunteers and Friends of OSP. So many visitors show up we do need the scopes to support the great folks, but it does get a bit crowded. Works great, though!
  25. Event: Chiricahua National Monument Star Party Date: Saturday October 21, 2017 Location: Chiricahua National Monument, 37 miles Southeast of Willcox, AZ, about 5400 feet elevation Weather: Clear skies, low 90s at home in Marana, AZ about 140 miles Northwest of the park at 2:00 PM, about 70 at the park at 5:30 PM, dropping to upper 40s around 9:30 PM when we left. Seeing: and Transparency: Seeing very steady, transparency generally good with some high stratus due to merging contrails from late afternoon west-bound Los Angeles air traffic. Equipment: 10” f/10 Meade 2120 SCT operating at f/5 (1270mm) for deep sky, Celestron AVX mount, Mallincam Xterminator live video camera, QFX 19" LCD 12V monitor, Werker deep cycle 100 amp-hour power supply with A/C inverter. The TAAA provided Jim Knoll, Dean Ketelsen, Paul Williamson, and myself to set up telescopes to support a public night under the stars, part of the Chiricahua National Monument (CNM)’s efforts to achieve International Dark Sky Park status. Jim did the heavy lifting in setting up the event and visiting the site to choose a setup site. CNM is a picturesque combined prairie and brushy high desert area at over 5,000 feet elevation and about forty miles from urban light sources, a combination giving it very dark skies along with favorable transparency. Humidity for the two days I was in the area was under 10%, helping provide a clear access to the exoatmospheric realm. CNM is rightfully called, quoting from its web site, a "Wonderland of Rocks", waiting to be explored. The 8-mile paved scenic drive and 17-miles of day-use hiking trails provide opportunities to discover the beauty, natural sounds, and inhabitants of this 11,985 acre site including the Faraway Ranch Historic District with plenty to discover more about the people who have called this area home. The quality of the night sky here, with the cooperation of the climatology, weather cooperates, gives great skies for exploring the full environment at this dark sky site. OK, on with the show. The location is about a two hour drive from home, and then back again. I wasn’t sure how long we’d have visitors since the event was advertised in the area as well as there being a campground within the property. I needed to be there early enough to set up my scope as well as check out the Bonita Campground Amphitheater for a sunset talk I was requested to give, so I was looking at a pretty full day and late night so to be safe, I planned to drive home the next morning and got a room in Willcox. The star party was coincident with several major events in Willcox including a wine festival, the Boulder Dash Trail Run, art classes and festivals, all of which had most of the motel rooms in town booked a couple of months in advance but I was able to reserve one six weeks in advance. After an uneventful drive to Willcox, I checked into the Super 8 and headed the forty miles to CNM. I set up with the others at the Faraway Ranch Parking Lot, headed over to the campground amphitheater. We have been setting up this support for the CNM star party series for around six months, and it was great to meet Ranger Suzanne Moody, our point of contact. Suzanne was setting up the projector, I plugged in my laptop, and we were ready to go. As people began coming into the outdoor arena, Suzanne engaged them in conversation and prompting their observations about the experience in the facility. I am always amazed when I deal with National Park Service Rangers and their positive approach to the whole function. Everyone Suzanne dealt with at the Amphitheater received personal attention with a smile and enthusiasm. And it always seems that way, with the Interpretive Rangers I've teamed with at a half dozen National Parks, Monuments, and Recreation Areas. Always uplifting to be around. The talk is an overview of what’s available to view at night. A brief description of how small and large stars work, basic facts about our solar system and planets, clusters, constellations, galaxies, nebulae, and comets, finishing up with a four minute stream of astrophotographs of the objects we’d been discussing. We had about 20 people show up; the festivities in Willcox cut down the size of the potential audience. I went back to the setup site, and the other three were going strong with about 50 visitors. It took me a while in the dark to polar and stellar alignments done, then I caught up with the others. The first item I showed was M22, the large globular cluster in Sagittarius. The gain was set on 3, with only the 2.1 seconds of integration set, and there were some red artifacts in the cluster core so I backed the gain down to zero and upped the integration time to 8 seconds and the cluster exploded on the screen, filling it like a picture of Omega Centaurus. From then on, I kept the gain off and used only integration time to enhance the various objects. From then on, it was a great teaching opportunity with about a dozen folks who hung around.my spot. For this season, I jumped through my usual list of objects that show well with the Mallincam. After M22, I went over to M8, the Lagoon, and upped the integration time to highlight the huge emission nebula and its evolving open cluster condensing from the gas cloud as each star’s nuclear fusion initiates and sends out a pressure wave to continue the star forming process. In a few million years, all we’ll have to view is the cluster devoid of gas, but for now, what a beauty. Next came The Swan, M17, a red emission nebula that resembles its namesake and appears to be shedding feathers. Some of the most massive stars generating the energy to cause the emission are hidden behind the dust cloud that makes the crook of the neck of the swan, needing infrared sensors to peer into the dark. We spent a good amount of time discussing the range of stellar evolution in view, with the new birthing in M8 and M17, while the end of the process residing in M22. To complete the life cycle demonstration we ended up nearly overhead, first with M27, the Dumbbell planetary nebula in Vulpecula the Fox, just below the Summer Triangle, a huge item on the monitor screen since I operate at f/5, a longer focal length of 1270mm to get a large image size. This item required an increase of integration time to over 20 seconds, but the blue-green ionizing oxygen center was wrapped nicely in the red hydrogen outer layer all generated by the heat from the white dwarf core star caused by the increased stellar winds from the helium flash near the end of life of the dying former star. For a while we went over to The Ring nebula, M57, in Lyra, a much smaller object due to being about twice as far away from us as M27. The double white dwarf stars were clearly visible, but the integration time needed to be dropped to around 5 seconds to accommodate the higher surface brightness of the little Cheerio. As a comparison, I tried to go back to M8 and couldn’t find it, thinking my alignment had gone awry. Then I looked up and saw Sagittarius had dipped behind a high Southwestern ridge, and even the Xterminator has trouble looking through rock. The final object I showed off was NGC457, The Owl Cluster, looking like a bat hanging upside down with the camera orientation appropriate to the upcoming holiday, and is an example of a cluster that has used up all of the source gas but whose stars have yet to dissipate at only about 22 million years old, fills in the timeline of stellar evolution. Our audience eventually left, I packed up, went to the motel, and had an uneventful trip home, except for an accident that had closed I-10 and had us get off and back on. Among the dented vehicles I saw was an auto transporter with six vehicles on fire. That’s going to cost! A nice start to a continuing partnership with Chiricahua National Monument.
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