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Grand Canyon Star Party, June 16 - 23, 2012

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#1 Skylook123

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Posted 30 October 2011 - 07:33 PM

The 2012 Grand Canyon Star Party (GCSP) will be held the nights of June 16 through 23 in northern Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park. GCSP is an annual collaboration between the National Park Service and astronomers from around North America to bring astronomy outreach to Park visitors.

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. Vistiors 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 accomodate 80 or more telescopes, and we have not had to limit South Rim attendance thus far. The dozen or so North Rim slots on the Lodge veranda, however, usually are accounted for by the end of February.

In general, volunteer astronomers are responsible for securing their own lodging, and, due to the nature of the venues for both rims, telescopes need to be set up and taken down each night. Please see the North Rim site for unique arrangements for that venue.

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
Phone:602-390-0118

Grand Canyon Star Party - North Rim

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

Grand Canyon Star Party - South Rim

#2 skyward_eyes

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Posted 31 October 2011 - 10:08 AM

I'm planning on being there Monday-Sunday, coming up two days earlier then the rest of the RLD.

#3 Skylook123

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Posted 31 October 2011 - 02:52 PM

Great, Kevin. While you're on the way up, why not snag one of those Lunt 230mm toys for us to play with? :wron:

#4 Skylook123

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Posted 31 October 2011 - 02:53 PM

Six nights, Kevin? Don't forget to ask about a free campsite.

#5 skyward_eyes

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Posted 04 November 2011 - 08:49 AM

Jim,

I've already booked my hotel room. Its nice to come back to a nice bed instead of a sleeping bag every night.

I would have no chance with the 230, they are all accounted for. I should have the usual LS100 again though.

#6 Skylook123

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 10:29 AM

Just a reminder that if your travel plans include the Grand Canyon during the eight nights of GCSP, be sure to come and join us at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center to enjoy the 7000 foot elevation, or, on the veranda of the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim at 8000 feet. Your park admission is all you need to come and hang out back with 35 to 50 of us on the South Rim, or a dozen scopes on the North Rim. On the South Rim we have a sunset talk inside the theater that is always a great way to let the twilight settle in as well.

If you are thinking of setting up us as an astronomer volunteer, please do! The North Rim is always fully booked by January, but on the South Rim we always have room for more astronomers. South Rim volunteers will need to register in advance with me at the email address below, and I will send you your Welcome and Information package in late May with your free park admission letter, a welcome from, our lead interpretive Ranger Marker Marshall and me, and other hints and helps. Last year we had 109 astronomers register with the National Park Service on the nights of the event as official volunteers, and at least a dozen of us were also set up during the daylight hours at various locations around the park doing solar, lunar, and planetary observing. By the end, we had logged nearly 60,000 visitor contacts, a tremendously rewarding week.

So, join us on either rim as a visitor, or set up a telescope with us on the South Rim as a volunteer, for one night or all eight, or something in between!

For a narrative and pictures of last year's adventure, head on over to:

GCSP 2011

#7 skyward_eyes

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 10:35 AM

Looking forward to it! I cant wait to get out under the AZ skies again, the California skies suck... At least anywhere near by.

You still want me to do a talk on the sun?

#8 Skylook123

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 11:39 AM

Hi Kevin,

At this time, I don't think we'll need one. Thanks for thinking about it! We have a returning Ranger who does astronomy talks at Lake Mead (she was our Marker before Marker) and wants to be on the agenda, as well as one or two surprises that have come about. For a while I was worried, but it looks like we'll be covered.

#9 Joe Bergeron

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 02:56 PM

I hope there will be a spot for me in the speakers schedule.

Working on the new logo...

#10 Skylook123

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 03:42 PM

I hope there will be a spot for me in the speakers schedule.

Working on the new logo...


That's why I said now we're covered! :ubetcha:

#11 Skylook123

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 04:07 AM

Just a reminder that if you intend to drop in on the Grand Canyon Star Party, come on over to either the Visitor Center on the South Rim, or the veranda of the Grand Canyon lodge on the North Rim.

If you are wanting to be one of our volunteer astronomers, contact me at the email address below and Ill get you the registration material.

#12 skyward_eyes

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 09:13 AM

Have you sent out the Information packet email yet?

#13 Skylook123

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 07:40 AM

Yes, they were emailed a week ago. PM sent.

#14 Skylook123

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 07:43 AM

Well, my personal telescope operators from last year (granddaughters Jessica and Karina) have arrived, with operator #3, grandson Stephan. Since the crew is now of mixed gender, my wife Susan has changed their moniker from "The Girls" to "The Roadies".

#15 skyward_eyes

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 09:35 AM

Really looking forward to this year! Its been a crazy past few months moving so far from home so it will be nice to be back at this special place. Only thing special this year will be the double stack Coronado 90 solar scope we are bringing up!

#16 Skylook123

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 10:57 PM

You always have such interesting toys!

#17 desertstars

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 07:48 PM

Well, my personal telescope operators from last year (granddaughters Jessica and Karina) have arrived, with operator #3, grandson Stephan. Since the crew is now of mixed gender, my wife Susan has changed their moniker from "The Girls" to "The Roadies".


That's probably a good idea.

Looking foreward to reading your reports of the event. :cool:

#18 James Ling

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 12:04 AM

Well, my personal telescope operators from last year (granddaughters Jessica and Karina) have arrived, with operator #3, grandson Stephan. Since the crew is now of mixed gender, my wife Susan has changed their moniker from "The Girls" to "The Roadies".


Must post a lot of photos.....
Is Grand Canyon which I am sure people like myself form non USA country very much like to see and know how the place.....look like......

REgards

James Ling


That's probably a good idea.

Looking foreward to reading your reports of the event. :cool:



#19 Skylook123

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 08:59 PM

James,

Check here for a few pictures from last year. Mostly on Pages 2,3, and 4. The telescope setup spot is about a five minute walk from the South Rim. We had 109 registered astronomer volunteers last year.

GCSP 2011


And any time you want to join us, we have a spot for you.

#20 James Ling

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 09:32 PM

Hi Jim....

Just read the last year , 8 days Grand Canyon Star Party forum...

Waiting to see your daily report in this annual event.....

Especially your wonderful 18" Dob...
M51 should be showing the spiral arms at your side, while mine is only 2 round bobs of lights, at my usual star gazing resort ......

REgards

James Ling

#21 Skylook123

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 02:01 PM

Finally solved some internet connection problems, so I'll try to get caught up with the daily ramblings.

#22 Skylook123

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 02:06 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY ONE - A Pretty Good Start

Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft elevation

Weather: 80s at Noon, 75 at sunset, 50s when we quit at 11 PM. Clear skies, but the wind picked up around 9:45 to about 8 - 15 MPH gusts.

Seeing and Transparency: Started good, but deteriorated a little bit due to the winds.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount

Starting our second year at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, some changes were made in our adventure. First, the Rangers marked off a telescope-free path down the middle of the parking lot for foot traffic. Second, to improve our communications among ourselves, we are having an informal gathering at 7 PM for popsicles and conversation. I think it helps put a more community aspect on what we are doing.

The trip up was uneventful, but now there are FIVE of us travelling up. Thirteen year old grandson Stephan has been added to the now 18 year old Jessica on the 10" Atlas and 15 year old Karina on the 18" Teeter. I need to break in Stephan on the 90mm Orion ShortTube with its Skyview mount. Five people, four telescopes and an 8 night stay make for a packed station wagon, packed pickup, and an external rack on the trailer hitch.

We came up on Friday night and did dry runs on the theater setup and finished the light reduction operations. All looks well for the future.

Saturday was the usual running around getting things organized. I found out I forgot one of the roll up tables I bring, the one I use in the theater for supporting the laptop that has all the presentations. Ginger Applegarth, who has worked with our Ranger coordinator Marker Marshall since last GCSP to try to improve the information distribution for the new volunteers every year called to say she and Alan were running late and did I need anything, because they were stopping at Walmart. Table problem solved. What Ginger is doing is a quantum leap, I think, in helping bridge the gap in the returning vets and the relative newcomers. For health reasons, Alan and Ginger now need to travel in a longer RV so we had sufficient camping slots that we could put then in one of the handicap accessible spaces and they can have an information table set up for all of the volunteer so check out what's going on. And this year I sent out the Welcome and Information package identifying where the campsites are located. As many as two thirds of our volunteers are not housed in Mather Campground, so I identified the location and campsites so we can improve getting to know each other. Having an "Information Central" in the campground, and Marker providing the popsicle session each night, should ease the load on new folks trying to fit in.

Unfortunately, we are missing two of our stalwart participants, Derald Nye and Erich Karkoshka. I really do miss both of their presences. We will have to carry on as best we can.

We got the two big scopes set up, and headed over to the theater at 7:30 to get ready for the night talk. We are now limited to 233 total bodies in the facility, so with the three of us up front, we no longer have 280+ SRO throng. With everything ready to rock and roll, we were off and running. The talk was a new one, given by Interpretive Ranger Laura Jevtich who normally is assigned to Desert View and does night sky interpretation there. Her talk was a comprehensive look at Supernovas - how the universe evolved, and a very engaging way of demonstrating the life cycle of stars. Her talk then went into the elements generated through the engergy released, and the neutron star or black hole remainder. The interesting wrinkle was that she had every person coming in get a square of paper with an element. The color of the paper was an indicator of the source of the element. Laura then went through a list of items and whether they could exist without a supernova - jewelry, electronics, the Sun, buildings, the Earth, the earth's atmosphere, having peope hold up the cards as she read off different element constituents. A great involvement of the audience. She also had an interesting presentation of candidate stars for supernova and hypernova/gama ray burst status, and their distances. Looks like we're safe for now.

I ran out at the end to start the first constellation tour at 9 PM, with Laura set for the 9:30 and 10 PM events. These are always fun, introducing the visitors to the structure of the sky, and the myths and science intermingled.

So, it was 9:45 before I got back to the scopes. Not much to report. Karina was doing OK on the Ring and Mizar, but the Jessica and the Atlas were in a bit of trouble. I had adjusted the latitude change from Tucson in the daylight, in the wrong direction! She finally stuck it on Polaris and did a double star show and tell, which she usually does very well. Five minutes after I got there, the wind started gusting and driving the Teeter around, so between that and the Atlas in another universe, it took an hour of fussing to stow the Teeter and to get all of the bugs worked out and realign everything. It should be OK for tonight. The good news is that after I finally got the polar alignment straightened out, it nailed M6 in Sagittarius and M51 in Coma Berenices dead center so we should be OK for tomorrow night. I'm doing my usual talk on what's up in the sky, a simple, introductory sentance or three on the sun, moon, each planet, clusters, nebulae, galaxies, and comets. Then Laura will do the first constellation tour so I can make sure the kids are OK with the scopes, and I'll do the last tour.

The one positive aspect of having to scramble with both telescopes is to listen to Paul Lorenz who was set up next to us. It is always entertaining and informative to hear Paul describe his targets to his visitors; last night it was M82, M51, and The Veil Nebula. So I was actually moving a little slower than usual, enjoying Paul's interaction with the crowd.

Finally, it was great to see Joe Bergeron again, our space artist from New York who has designed every one of our t-shirts for GCSP.

The adventure begins!

#23 Skylook123

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 02:17 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY TWO - Some Recoveries

Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft elevation

Weather: 80s at Noon, 85 at sunset, 60s when we quit at 11 PM. Clear skies, occasional wind gusts.

Seeing and Transparency: Started good, still not quite as good as prior events. I do a quick check of Canes Venatici for the main two stars. Cor Caroli was pretty strong as usual, but the second of Bootes' herding dogs was dimming out and in all night.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Lunt LS60THa

The daytime was pretty much uneventful. Our Sunday pizza party was set this year for 3 PM. Personally, this disturbed my usual routine, because I had wanted to do solar with grandson Stephan. I apparently was not alone, because the expected attendance was down about a third. Ginger Applegarth said many astronomers showed up at the familiar noon start time, not having read the flyer we all get at registration. So, we had about 8 or 10 pizzas left over, which the Rangers stored at the visitor center and brought out for the evening popsicle gathering at the scopes. Still might be leftovers!

I did my usual session at the Canyon Cafe, reviewing for the evening and trying to get the daily observing report posted, but everyone was having wireless problems.

The pizza showed up, we had our usual gathering, and started a get well letter for Erich Karkoshka who is not with us this year.

I got to the site at 5:30 with Stephan, and we set up the solar scope and the sun was highly cooperative. A couple of great prominence clusters, and splatters of sunspot groups. Great idea to do it. Not many folks came by to look, though, mostly astronomers in our area setting up for the evening. Stephan was able to get his first experience with his own setup of an equatorial mount and learning the mechanics of how the Lunt works.

My "What's to See" talk was on the agenda tonight. Mike Weaver, our Ranger coordinator tonight while Marker has her off day, did a great warm up with the crowd. The crowd was noticably smaller compared to last night. We hit our theater occupancy limit just after 8 PM the first night, but this night we started at the 8:10 PM advertised start.

I went a little long because of a prestart question about red lights I added to my talk. The talk itself was OK, but I droned on a little bit too long. I did get a good chuckle from the Saturn floating in a bathtub and leaving a ring note, and Herschel's discovery of Uranus by accident while checking one of his mirrors in his garden, but afterward I got about 10 minutes of great questions from people after the talk. I do need to pare the material down a bit, though.

I ran out to see how my scope roadies were doing and found that Karina was doing OK with the big dob, but had chosen an object too high in elevation and folks were needing to climb three steps to see her target. I had to remind her that she's in charge, and she can stop any time and reposition. So she went to Polaris (the attractive triple star that clever unpowered dob users point to since once it's in the field the dob can stay there) and was going onward.

Jessica was having trouble again, or I should say the mount was giving her trouble. A bit off on polar, so her use of Mizar was drifing on her. I did a quick iterative polar alignment, which got the polar better, but the star alignment was way off. I got so involved with trying to fix it with a three star alignment I did not get down for the 10 PM constellation tour so Laura came up while Chuck Schroll started it off. I hurried down and finished the tour, the went back up to the Atlas to try to rescue that situation. Unfortunately, my roadies seem to have forgotten some of what the learned last year. Tomorrow I'll set up the Atlas in the permanent setup area and get it dialed in. But the missing the start of the 10 PM was mortifying. NEVER will happen again.

When I came back, I compounded the difficulties by using a bad pair to align the Atlas. Both were about the same elevation at the time (Deneb, Denebola) so the alignment accuracy was off. I was able to get the Lagoon, but it was probably three degrees away so tomorrow I'll have to do things the right was early.

But the crowds were awesome again to work with. Great questions at the night talk, and lots of fun working with them at both scopes. The late crowd at 10:30 were very interested in the nature of open clusters and seeing the Coma Cluster and the rotation point of the Milky Way galaxy, and the story of Coma Berenices. Once again, as always, the people are the thing.

The crowd was gone by about 11 PM, so Jessica and I closed up shop and came back.

I'll try to get some initial setup pics posted soon; we're having internet troubles at the park, but it might be resolved now.

#24 Skylook123

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 02:22 PM

Hi Jim....

Just read the last year , 8 days Grand Canyon Star Party forum...

Waiting to see your daily report in this annual event.....

Especially your wonderful 18" Dob...
M51 should be showing the spiral arms at your side, while mine is only 2 round bobs of lights, at my usual star gazing resort ......

REgards

James Ling


Yes, James, M51 is awsome at this altitude with a little aperture to throw at it. So is The Sombrero, and Markarian's Chain. These are items that you can't quite get the feeling of when down near civilization and a thick atmosphere. Oh, and the activity in M82 is AMAZING to see here. And The Lagoon. With a 19mm Panoptic in the 18" and going to The Swan, it seems to be shedding feathers. It is truly an awe inspiring week every year..

#25 Skylook123

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Posted 19 June 2012 - 01:40 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY THREE - Another Great One

Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft elevation

Weather: 80s at Noon, 78 at sunset, 50 when we quit at 11 PM. Clear skies, terrible winds up to 35+ MPH all day, although it did calm down after about 8:30PM.

Seeing and Transparency: Both still suffering a bit. Still good skies, but distant fires and the awful winds are really apparent..

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Lunt LS60THa
90mm Orion ShortTube

The daytime was interesting, in a nuissance sort of way. I reported yesterday about slow/inoperative wireless. Somehow the Grand Canyon National Park's internet connection got corrupted by a DNS kidnapping, and the wireless was out to lunch until, well, lunch!

We got to the setup spot early, so I set up two solar scopes: the 90mm with white light, and the Lunt. Nice views in both, not much in the way of foot traffic since it was in the middle of the astronomers setting up for the evening. I finally swapped out the Lunt for the usual 10" SCT for the night, and capped the 90mm. We were not setting up the 18" due to the winds, so I thought I'd use the 90mm for some wide field later in the evening.

I spent a bit of the morning studying the resume of Bill Wren, our speaker last night. He is Special Assistant to the Superintendent at University of Texas Austin's McDonald Observatory, founding member of the UT McDonald Observatory Supernova Search Team and discoverer of four Supernovas in five years, two garnering Nova awards from the American Association of Variable Star Observers. Coauthor of the paper “Preserving McDonald Observatory's Dark Night Sky”, Bill is a strong proponent of preserving the night sky.

His topic was Taking Back The Night, a tremendous presentation of the impacts of light impingement and bad lighting design, corrective actions, and motivation to do the right things for keeping the light use effective, efficient, and appropriate.

The talk was extremely well received, but went well outside our window of time. Bill is an awesome speaker; I lost track of the time as his presentation led us through the entire concept of reclaiming the night sky, especially the WHY. It was a scramble for Laura to get to the Constellation Tour location in time to start the 9PM walk around the sky.

Back at the scopes, the wind was too high to use the 18" so it stayed packed up and Karina went back to the Lodge, but Jessica had taught herself how to do a two star alignment with the Synta hand controller on the Atlas, and found the GOTOs OK, but polar alignment was still off. Once again, she stayed on Mizar. Amazing how excited the visitors get when learning about the lore of Mizar from multiple cultures while waiting in line, then actually seeing the orientation in the eyepiece and getting the color/temperature and Mizar double-double kind of information. The blue star nearby looks dim, but with most of its light in the UV, it could actually be brighter.

The temperature had dropped precipitously with the sun. I had left my jacket in the truck, so I came out from the night talk in tshirt and shorts and said never again would I not change into big boy clothes. When I got to the scopes, I tried the 90mm, which I've only used for solar for the last few years. Then I remembered why; the finder was too close to the OTA, and really tough to use in a crowd. Beautiful views, but finding anything on the plain vanilla no utilities mount was just not the right thing to do. And with a cold, blustery evening and not picking up my jacket, I was ready for a diversion. There were probably about 15 people standing around me, and I heard a visitor ask a question about where to find the Little Dipper. Rescued! I gave up on the 90mm and started a sky tour. I was scheduled to do the 10PM Constellation Tour, why not do a dry run? So for twenty minutes the fifteen or so of us walked around the sky with science and mythology mixed together.

The 10PM constellation tour went extremely well. Lively group. Finished up about 10:35PM, walked back past the truck and grabbed a winter coat, and stowed the 10" for the night. Visitors had evaporated in the chill night, so I just ended the ops on the scope. This time I used a big tarp as a cover and didn't disassemble the whole thing. Had a great conversation time with Paul Lorenz, got back to the room at around 11:30. I'm almost thawed out!

Tonight will be a great topic - our Interpretive Ranger Marker Marshall will be doing her Starry, Starry Nights At The Grand Canyon. I learn a lot every time I see it.

I'm not using a scope again this year, and having more fun with the visitors than I could imagine.






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