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Kielder Autumn dates


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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.


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    • By Cjg
      Have just returned from a short break at the Wainscott, one of the three Hideaway Huts on the very edge of the Northumberland National Park.
      The huts are astro friendly, supplied with Binoculars, a Planisphere and a red light torch. There is a viewing platform, facing south, with an electrical supply too. On  request, the friendly owners (who live locally) will deliver an 8inch dobsonian for residents to borrow, a solar scope is available too.
      The location makes them perfect for holiday astronomy, and of course Kielder Observatory is about a 45 minute drive away too.
      Ther huts are compact, so you'll be very good friends if not going with your partner, and are spotlessly clean and equipped with a bluetooth speaker and a TV with a set box for netflix, etc for cloudy nights.  Theres a compact fridge and combined oven / microwave with an induction hob.
      The owner, Helen, bakes, and my "welcome baskets" included fresh baked bread, cakes, some local beer as well as the usual milk, eggs and bacon.
      Highly recommended, enjoyed my time so much, I rebooked on my last day to visit in August! (  https://www.hideawayhuts.com/ )

    • By Astrofriend
      Hi all,
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    • By Skylook123
      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
      Steve Dodder
      Coordinator, North Rim, Grand Canyon Star Party
      53750 W. Prickley Pear Rd.
      Maricopa, AZ 85239
      E-mail: fester00 [at] hotmail.com

      South Rim
      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
    • By CSM
      Date Event Venue Saturday 25/11/2017
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    • By Skylook123
      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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