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Chicago Astronomical Society's first annual Astrofest Outreach Star Party is in the record books. A combination of beautiful daytime weather, dark skies and good fellow astro geek newbies and oldies, made this a nice star party.
It was good to see fellow CA, Robb. Wonderful view of M31, M32 and M110 galaxies in same eyepiece view thru his C8.
A few pics from the weekend.
Hey there's Audrey and Joe Mayer.
daytime deep blue skies....leads to very transparent skies
atomant's observing station
m22 glob, 60sec, iso3200, 1350mm
m8 lagoon, 104sec, iso3200, 1350mm
m20 trifid, 120sec, iso3200, 1350mm
m17 swan, 90sec, iso3200, 1350mm
m16 eagle, i see pillars!, 180sec, iso 3200, 1350mm
these were quick noisy snaps thru the sloooowwww AT6RC.
Was too tired during the day to enjoy the rocks, maybe next time.
Thanks for posting your pics of the Astrofest, Bill. It was great seeing you there. My wife, daughter, and I didn't arrive until later (much later) in the day on Saturday. We had garage sale activities that prevented us from getting an earlier start. Also, while I would be staying at Astrofest all night, my wife and daughter were staying at a hotel back in Peru. So, we had to go check in there before heading out to the park.
Due to our late arrival, I missed out on all the workshops and presentations for the day. I started setting up my scope immediately upon arrival as there wasn't going to be much sunlight left for very much longer. And knowing me, it takes a while to get set up!
Audrey Fischer and other presenters gave some nice talks at the main event stage while I was busy setting up. I couldn't see any of it, but I was able to listen in and catch bits and pieces. Being one of the only outreach astronomers out on the field while all the others were enjoying the presentations, and being set up closest to where guests were arriving, I got a lot of foot traffic before anyone else. It was very good outreach practice for me (something I need more of). While setting up, I was also busy answering questions about my scope, how it works, what you can see with it, what we'll be looking at tonight, how I got into astronomy, and even giving a mini lesson to a nice gentleman on how to set up his Walmart telescope (he didn't bring it with him, but was very attentive and seemed to understand my instructions using my scope as a stand-in).
After the presentations were concluded, all the other astronomers came back onto the field. We had several members of the public wander in to see what was going on; most of them campers who were already staying at the park and didn't necessarily come specifically for Astrofest. There were a decent number of visitors, but not as many as I had hoped for and certainly not as many as I would have expected for an event like this. I mean, this was a relatively large star party and specifically billed as a public outreach event. Does the public just not have that much interest in astronomy? Or did marketing/advertising the event play a part? When we checked into our hotel before coming out to the park, I was talking with the girl who was helping us and telling her about Astrofest. She said she wished she had known about it beforehand. She would have changed her schedule at the hotel to make it out there. She said that there is really nothing to do in the area other than Starved Rock. So any events out there usually draw a decent crowd.
Most of the people I spoke with were there between 8-10:30pm. And that's what I did most of the time (talking) because the clouds were not cooperating. It had been perfectly clear the night before and all day long. All the forecasts were calling for perfectly clear skies. But out of nowhere, big huge clumps of clouds kept rolling in and obscuring just about everything. There would be a small hole here or there, but not long enough to actually slew my scope to it and show anything to my guests. I did a lot of pointing my GLP at different areas of the sky describing what WOULD be there if it weren't for the clouds!
At around 10:30pm, I had to leave the park for a bit in order to drive my daughter and wife back to the hotel in Peru. My daughter had already crashed on the yoga pad and pillow I had brought for myself. My wife was starting to get tired and chilled. So I figured it would be best to get them back. On the way out of the park, I noticed they had already gated off the entrance to the campgrounds, and there was a spike strip at the exit to prevent anyone from driving back in that way. I was sure that I would end up having to park my car by the entrance when I got back and have to walk the remaining half mile to the Astrofest grounds. However, when I returned, there were two other cars of campers who were returning from a "supply" run and trying to figure out how to get back in the park. Two gentlemen pulled the spare tire wheel covers from their trunks and placed those over the spike strips allowing everyone to get back in the park with nary a scratch on anyone's tires. And, lucky for me, by the time I returned to the park around 11:30pm (it took a while to get back due to an unfortunate encounter with law enforcement), the clouds had departed and the skies were perfectly clear!!!
Sorry I don't have any fancy pictures of the event itself to post like CA Bill. I brought my DSLR, but I never got around to breaking it out until the wee hours of the morning when I finally decided to do a little astro-imaging. It took me that long to convince myself it was worth the effort to partially breakdown and then recalibrate/balance my scope just to take some photos. I was getting way too much enjoyment just from leaning back in my chair and taking in the entire sky full of stars! Anyway, I managed to get some photos of M45 Pleiades and M42 Orion Nebula. I took several subs of each that I intend to stack and process soon. In the meantime, I'll post a couple single shots below. I eventually had to stop imaging Orion as the sky was starting to brighten in the East and my shots were getting washed out. I decided to suck it up and stay awake until the sun finally climbed above the tree line and took a series of shots of Sol. I'll include one of those, too.
In all, I had a great time at Astrofest. It was my first, full-fledged, organized star party at which I actually had my own scope and equipment. I really can't wait to do more of these events. While I was there, I met and spoke with Audrey a lot about different outreach topics and preserving our night skies. I have a lot of ideas and other things to think about now. In fact, I am even starting my own website dedicated to amateur astronomy, public outreach, and night sky preservation. I'll post more on that at another time when it's actually ready for public consumption. Right now it mostly just has the stock/default gibberish that comes with a website template. I'm slowly updating with my own info and hope to launch it officially soon. I'm also trying to kick off an initiative within my own place of work that deals with heavy road construction, the tollways, and the lighting fixtures that are currently installed. There's a lot of new tollway construction coming in the next few years, and I'm going to try and pull whatever strings I have available to push for dark-sky-friendly lighting on the toll roads.
So, that's my Astrofest review. Here are a few samples of the astro pics I took:
You might want to think about hooking up with the Starved Rock Lodge. It's right next to the campground, basically in the park, although from what I understand the Lodge is actually not state owned. They also have an email list I'm on with regular events.
I've stayed in the campground, not impressed at all (and I do a LOT of camping.) The lodge is pretty inexpensive, has a pool, hot tub, bar, massive fire place, and a Sunday brunch second to none. The bald eagles actually all gather on the river there in the winter, so the lodge is a usual winter weekend getaway for my wife and me... I was planning on taking whatever new scope I get up there this winter.
What did you use to get those awesome pictures?
Last Edit: Aug 31, 2011 21:27:19 GMT -6 by headdunce
We thought about getting a room at the lodge for Astrofest. But my wife is the queen of finding travel bargains (even has her own website and does presentations on getting great travel deals www.findingtravelbargains.com). She was able to get us a night at the La Quinta in Peru for ~$40. I believe rooms at the Starved Rock lodge were going for ~$120 per night when we looked into it. So, a short little 10-minute drive back to Peru to save $80 was well worth it. However, had I known in advance I would get a $120 speeding ticket from one of Peru's finest, I would have just cut my losses and booked at the lodge!
The pics were taken at prime focus through my Celestron C8 mounted on a CG5-ASGT mount. Camera was a Canon 40D DSLR. I had the camera wired up to my laptop and controlled the exposures remotely. The Pleiades were taken at ISO1600 with 60 second subs, Orion's Nebula was ISO1600 at 30 second subs, and Sol was ISO100 at 1/60 second, if I remember correctly. Not much processing has been done to the photos above as I just wanted to quickly get some shots posted for my Astrofest review. When time allows, I will process them in RegiStax and Photoshop to give them the spit and polish they need. I will repost the pics at that time.