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Fall 2015 Staunton River Star Party

Bringing Space Exploration & the Night Sky Down to Earth

Fall 2015 Staunton River Star Party

Life can be pretty rough when attending a star party during good weather.  Okay, I’m being sarcastic; actually attending a star party is great way to spend some quality time under the stars assuming the weather at night cooperates.  If you live in the mid-Atlantic region of the East coast, you really need to check out the Staunton River Star Party (SRSP).

I have been attending SRSP since started in 2012 (officially).  SRSP is sponsored by CHAOS (Chapel Hill Astronomical Observing Society) and hosted by the rangers and staff at the Staunton River State Park in Virginia.  The star party has a shorter, more informal spring event in March and a more formal, week long fall event in October.  In my humble opinion, this is one of the best star parties out there and in general a really great place to observe.  However, don’t take my word…check out the following article on the UK’s Daily Mail web site.  While Staunton River State Park was recently designated a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), it is not necessarily the darkest place on the East.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s dark but what this park has over a few darker locations are the rangers, staff and facilities!  During the star party the rangers and staff open up the park’s snack bar and serve food and beverages; they are open 22 hours a day (breakfast from 6:00am to 11:00am and lunch/dinner from 11:00am to 4:00am).  The bathrooms are very clean.  There is 110 volt power piped to most of the observing field through various 80 amp service lines.  The observing field is flat, regularly mowed and has nice low horizons 360 degrees around.  Lastly, there is an indoor meeting area than can seat well over 60 people.  If that is not enough for you, they even broadcast wireless internet access but don’t expect broadband like speeds you get a home as there are many people using wi-fi.

My experience at this fall’s SRSP was great as usual.  I arrived just after 12 noon on the day the star party started, Monday October 12th.  I was surprised how many folks were already there, there must have been 20 folks already set up or setting up their gear.  It was a constant flow of new arrivals the rest of the day and into the next several days.  Of the 140 or so registered attendees, about 60 were registered for the full week with the remainder registered for the weekend.  By Wednesday there were definitely 60 plus people in attendance.  Unfortunately I could not stay the weekend due to prior commitments.

Below is a slide show of shots I took during the day of SRSP:

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The skies at night did not disappoint.  I had 4 great nights of observing and made quite a bit of headway in logging objects toward by Binocular Messier program, my Herschel 400 program and my Bright nebula program.  The nights were unfortunately very high in humidity and cool; the result was some rather dewy nights.  Wednesday night was so dewy, if it was any more dewy they could not longer call it dew, it would have been a light rain with no clouds!  Folks had their eyepieces dewing up in their cases with the covers on.

Below are some shots I captured with the Astro Video Systems MK-IV camera, none of these images have been processed or retouched, they are as viewed from the screen of my laptop during the observing session:

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