Almost Heaven Star Party Report
I had a great time at the star party despite the weather. I almost didn’t go because of the ominous prospect of bad weather, but I am glad I went. I now know that it is not just about the observing, but meeting like-minded folks from all over and getting to know your fellow club members better.
The scenery was stunningly beautiful even when the clouds socked us in. We were surrounded by lush green mountains covered with Red Spruce trees. They reminded me of Christmas Trees. Jim and I went on the summit hike and saw a rare blue crayfish in the rocks. Being at the summit, it was fun to be at the base of the clouds as they formed right above us. The wind was pretty strong there too. We looked at the valley below us bathed in sunlight. Hurricane Irene did visit us Saturday night with 60MPH wind gusts and horizontal rain but most of us were able to keep dry. I almost lost my pop-up canopy.
We did get a beautiful sky Monday night and I had the best views of the Veil Nebula I ever had. In fact, I probably spent about 30 minutes looking at it through various eyepieces. I did get a chance to look through a 28″ Webster telescope. I thought the view was pretty good of M51 (with the supernova still visible) and M13 had many more stars than what I am used to seeing.
One of the interesting things I saw was how the clouds are black there and not lit up from the ground. This is actually an eerie thing to see. There is no definition to the cloud bottoms, just black emptiness in the sky. It reminded me of dark nebula in space.
My expectation on a really dark sky was seeing black skies with lots of stars. This is not the case (many have said this before to me). The sky is more like a dark blue. At first glance, the sky did not seem that much better than Grieser Field. But I soon discovered that contrast in the eyepiece is much better and you see more. However, the jump from a suburban sky to GF is a lot larger than the jump from GF to Spruce Knob. Granted, I would much rather be under a dark sky like at Spruce Knob, but you get into diminishing returns considering the time and cost to get there. We have some nice locations closer to home we can enjoy.
It was fun hanging around Mike, Jim, Les (and his son Collin), Gerry (and his son Kevin) and Marshall. We also won several prizes too. Gerry’s son won a 3″ First Scope Reflector, Marshall won a nice set of Meade 5000 Plossls, Les’ son won the Meade DSI 2 CCD Camera (I think Les will be using it.. heheheh), and I won a $30.00 gift certificate for Astrosystems. I plan to use this for a new spider for the rebuild of my 12.5″ scope’s secondary cage.
The staff at TMI were wonderful and wow can they cook! The NOVAC club members who were running the event were awesome. They really know how to put on a nice event. We got to know some of them pretty well.
Star Parties are not about the observing, although that is nice, but are about the people you meet and get to know. I plan on going back next year.