2009 Cherry Springs Star Party

Thursday 6/19/09

Starting out Thursday very early morning, George, Art and I met at a parking lot to move forth into the potential stargazing heavens in Cherry Springs State Park near Coudersport, PA.  When we met in the morning, it was raining in Johnson City, and we hoped we would not see the same weather when we arrived at our destination three hours away.  The forecast was not looking good.

The long haul went off without a hitch, and we made it to Cherry Springs without any problems. It rained the whole way there, but when we showed up at Cherry Springs, it let up suddenly.  After we selected our camping spot, it was time to set up base camp.  Luckily, we were able to get the central easy up canopy tent up before the rain started to drizzle again (thanks so much to George for purchasing this perfect structure).  We then started to stand up each other’s individual sleeping tents.  Before we knew we were settled in.

After we had been set up for a while, Pat L. showed up to the event…it was good to see the Kopernik Astro Society’s numbers growing.  Pat set up his gear, and also got settled in!  After that, Pat and I went to town and caught a great dinner at some small diner type restaurant.

It rained off and on for hours, before giving in, but we didn’t see any of the clearing we had hoped for.  The sky was totally cloud locked.  No observing would be had this night.  The forecast for the rest of the weekend also looked dismal.  Determined to not have this moment lost, we began watching astronomy-based movies on George’s laptop.  We viewed “400 Years of the Telescope” as well as a NOVA special on stars…. Excellent movies both!  Thanks for bringing them George!

Friday 6/20/09

Friday morning, the rain held off, and we went into Town around lunchtime to catch a local fish fry.  Excellent food!  And when we finished our meal, we stepped outside, and holy cow…there were patches of blue sky.  There is no better feeling at such a long trip, than to see skies clearing despite the horrid forecast predictions.  Hope was alive again.  We returned to the campground, and plotted out our attendance at the various talks that would be given in the main pavilion.  A little irritating as they dynamically re-arranged the schedule.

When we returned to the campground, we were doubly pleased to see that KAS member, Greg had also shown up for the event!  It was great to see Greg, and the KAS ranks now numbered five.

Thomas Koller presented and excellent history and overview of the Hubble Space Telescope.  I really enjoyed this presentation…a real nice job.  Chip (park manager) and Maxine Harrison presented about some of the improvements of the park within the last year, as well as some of the current activity going on.  Interesting the plans for growth they are pursuing.  They also discussed the challenges that are being faced by the PA State Park System.

After attending a few presentations, double checked the Cherry Springs Clear Sky Chart, and loved the fact that we saw some clearing occurring the forecast.  I began to setup my 4” refractor, and re-arranging the truck for observing use.  There would be a window of 3-4 hours that would provide possible observations, but it looked like possible rain following 1-2 AM time frame. This did discourage me from setting up the C-14 SCT on G-11, as the refractor was probably more appropriate for the possible gorilla astronomy that might occur.

Sure enough nightfall came, and the sky cleared up quite nicely.  Snuck in observations of M13, M57, Albireo, Saturn, and a handful of other objects.  Then for about 45 minutes a thick haze came overhead.  It took me about 20 minutes to finds M57 in the heavy star fields of Cherry Springs’ sky.   This prompted me to reflect on the fact that I haven’t reviewed the summer night sky since 2006.  I broke out the Orion Sky Chart/Road Map, and started re-studying the sky while the haze came in.

Soon enough, the haze had passed, and I aimed over at M81 and M82, and as the sky cleared, wow…what a view!  From this clearing of the haze, we gained another hour of observing.  It was a fantastic sky during this time period, and I stopped using my telescope for a long period of time just to take in the awesome sky above.

To tell you what great fellas Art and George are, some fellow behind us did not know how to setup or use his telescope, and they spent their time during the clearing skies to aid this fellow almost the whole way through.

Saturday 6/21/2009

Sleeping in was a challenge for me, as early Saturday morning, it started to rain quite heavily.  I found a way to make it happen though.  After a few folks woke up, some of us drove down to Lyman Run State Park to grab a shower and a shave.  Returned back to base camp to grab a bite to eat.  We had determined that it was not going to be worth staying Saturday night, so as soon as the morning rain broke, I packed up my gear and my truck.  Then prepared myself to attend the various presentations.

Although most folks go to Cherry Springs to solely observe, the presentations that were given on Galaxies, the Sun, Mars missions, and exoplanets were all well worth the trip alone.  I learned a ton of stuff, and enjoyed each of the presentations given.

The annual big time Cherry Springs Star Party raffle was a huge win for the KAS squad.  Collectively, members won well over $300, mostly in gift certificates.  That was pretty impressive.  After the raffle, it was time to hit the road for the long trek back home.

It definitely could have been better weather, but despite the rough skies and weather, I for one had a great time, and cannot wait for next year!

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