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Utah Star Party

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#1 JayinUT

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 05:36 PM

Okay, a group of close observing friends and I are wanting to organize a private star party for here in Utah. Yes, I know we have Bryce and we have Great Basin but those are in reality, outreach events. I believe they do a wonderful service for the parks and such but I firmly believe that with the skies we have here in Utah, its long past time for a private star party for amateurs.

So a few ideas and I am looking for suggestions. This is what I have done so for.

1. Start small. If we just get a small group for the first several years or a small regional group I think that would be fine. Not looking for 200 plus people, just a place for amateurs to go and observe or image (we would have two locations near each other but far enough away that light from imaging wouldn't impact visual observers).

Site: I now own land that in about 2014 could be used and I have had some beginning discussions with the US Forest Service and BLM about using land that they are in control of. All sites under consideration are gray or black and are dark, very dark. Is private land better or is it okay to use public land? I guess with public land there is always the chance of others showing up in the area.

2. Time of the year. July and August can be monsoon in Utah so I would say no to those two months and I figure they conflict with other regional star parties. September in Utah is one of the best observing periods with some of the finest observing weather; warm during the day, cooling off to the 50's or 40's at night depending where you are. Labor Day is on Sept. 2nd in 2013 and new moon occurs on Thursday the 5th of September. I am thinking of the 5th(Thursday) through the 8th of September. So for those who have planned these is September too late (kids back in school, summer over etc) or would it work for people? How do you make a decision of when to hold the event?

3. Facilities. Is it better to have it in a location where there are facilities in place or to bring in facilities? What other factors are considered when having a site? Animals I know is one. Lighting issues are another. What else? Speakers are another but I figures we could put a call out for speakers and see who volunteers for the first couple of years and go from there. Is that realistic?

4. What else should we consider? We believe it should start small and see where it goes as the tradition takes hold.

5. Last, if your in Utah or a neighboring State would you travel to northern, central or southern Utah for a Star Party? We are thinking central or northern since you have the Grand Canyon, Bryce and others that are close to southern Utah. That and we do have some great sites up north but we aren't committed to location at this time. This is just getting started.

6. Any other advice is welcome as we try to get this off the ground for next year.

Thanks in advance!

Jay

#2 LivingNDixie

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 02:11 PM

One thing to consider is the LVAS does their dark sky star party in September at Cathedral Gorge SP in northeast Nevada. If it were me I would try for around maybe April.

Make sure the land has bathrooms and showers. As for speakers, that can be costly because you will have to pay for traveling and places for them to stay.

Depending where in Utah this is and when, I would consider attending IF I still lived in Las Vegas. Today though a trip from Alabama would be tough.

#3 Alvan Clark

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 03:10 PM

Actually the parks are one reason I would attend a Utah star party. Gives me something to do during the day. I don't think I'd go to northern Utah.

#4 Ranger Tim

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 09:46 PM

Yes, I'd travel to No. Utah to a star party. It is close enough to Southern Idaho to make it easy. Here are my suggestions after doing the exact same thing you are contemplating:

Bathrooms are necessary. Portable toilets are the minimum, and you will need one with a wash station.

Really take into account any ambient light. This seems to annoy even the most laid-back astronomer. This would include any lights from nearby traffic.

Showers are a luxury and nice but die hards will show up regardless of whether they are available or not. Those who are shower people tend to come in RV's anyway.

Electricity. A place to charge batteries and plug in the myriad devices that techies will have along. Some current available for those who haven't gotten their battery situation worked out is a nice touch, but not critical.

Access to food/drink. All people need to do this at least once a day. And there will always be those that forget stuff.

New moon? I think there is merit to having the event on a third quarter weekend as well, because most observers throw in the towel by 2AM. Those that don't can always observe planets and Luna herself. This will allow the event to grow without conflicting with another event. If it gets to be a big event you can schedule whenever you want!

Timing? Most of our kids are out of school for good, as astronomers at star parties tend to be the older crowd. Having access earlier in the week is good for those who can take the time off or don't have a rigorous schedule. Those with family along will show Friday evening anyway.

Speakers and other organized activities: Just ask for speakers and you'll get a few. Nobody might want to hear what they have to say but at least it won't cost you. Pot lucks are always fun, provided they are scheduled early enough in the day to not interfere with observing. Daylight hours can be tedious unless there is a swap meet or some social feature in the early afternoon. Most folks are awake and moving by 1PM.

Door prizes seem to me to be a very popular feature but I really don't care whether I get one or not. I don't go to these for prizes.

Post a web page that gives the details early so folks can plan to attend. Also post the guidelines on pets, lights, arriving after dark, etc. Anticipate travelers with signage and handouts, etc.

Realize that when you take on running a star party you are giving up any pretense of actually doing any meaningful observing or imaging. You will be the grease that keeps things going.

If this event actually takes place in Northern Utah please contact me for help. I'd be happy to assist. Any farther south than Salt Lake and I may have to settle for just being a participant.

GOOD LUCK!

#5 arczeneb

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 11:29 PM

How about Cedar Breaks national monument; campground, Duck creek, hiking, Cedar city, elevation, between Salt lake and Las Vegas. Depend on road closures I think July is open other months are star parties.
Ranger led star parties mid summer so somewhere in this area would be nice. If within reason of Las Vegas I would attend for 2 days.

#6 Jay_Bird

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 12:00 PM

The Petrified Forest State Park is a few miles northwest of Escalante, Utah at edge of Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument, and maybe 1 hour or less East from Bryce Canyon. It had about the darkest skies I've ever seen (bar none - Bryce, Cedar, Great Basin) on a couple of August nights after passing showers... That's a sample of one visit only.

But it might be a small, developed (campsites, showers, bathrooms, water) and really dark venue with easy road access and moderate (~ 7,000 ft?) elevation.

I've got to add that Cedar Breaks is a nice idea for a smaller venue. There is some Cedar City etc lighting visible to the W or SW from park HQ, which has a great western horizon overlooking the breaks, but the Cedar Breaks campground is back to the east, well back from the edge of the Bryce-like "breaks" and just north of a large meadow that offers a nice southern horizon as I recall, with very dark skies, and the slight western sky glow more blocked. At 10,000 ft Cedar Breaks National Monument offers at least the elevation of Bryce, too. Even if some outreach were coordinated with the park as part of group use, it would be a small crowd and an end time could surely be arranged.

Cedar Breaks was only accessible from the north via Brian Head the last time I went by - landslide close the access route from Cedar City to south of the monument.

#7 Skyshooter

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 04:20 AM

I'm down here in Cedar City. I get together with some friends and go to Cedar Breaks quite often in the summer time. It's a very dark site, we usually set up near blow hard mountain. There are numerous spots down here. Kolob canyon is a sleeper spot as well and very dark. He's right about the monsoon season. August can be pretty wet. Let me know what you decide on. It would be great to do some imaging with some new faces...

Cheers,
Ed

#8 arczeneb

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 10:51 PM

Goblin state park. Group site along with 26 other sites. Restrooms, hot shower, scenery, hiking. Look at the photos paved roads campsite covered structure. Distance for me but I would interested in exploring this area.

#9 Ranger Tim

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 05:58 PM

Always wanted to go to Goblin. Wonder if they would be interested in helping out with the event?

#10 arczeneb

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 11:03 PM

Group site
Group site can be reserved max 35 folks 8 vehicles park additional cars farther down the road if allowed (see bottom photo) or call for overflow parking. Min number of people 25 now thats a star party.
Camp under the formations and set scope on the pavement or the other way around. Photo shows coverage from other campers as the group is on the far corner. Shade and group cook out. Best time no crowds summer or?
In the Black
Not enough folks pick 2 or more campsites.
Goblin State park
GB state park

#11 JayinUT

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 12:36 AM

Okay, we are getting into the pre-planning stages and we are going to have a meeting after the holidays in early January. If your interested in giving input and participating in it but can't make due to distance, let me know. I'll be using Google Hangout for those who can't make it but want to be involved. You can have a audio or a camera/audio on your computer or on your mobile smart phone and participate. PM me if interested. I appreciate the input on what to look for and what to have available.

#12 Spaced

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 10:04 AM

I guess with public land there is always the chance of others showing up in the area.


It's possible to obtain an exclusive license from the Forest Service for temporary use of an area in national forests. The FS would require reasonable restrictions, primarily concering fire, vehicle travel.

Is it better to have it in a location where there are facilities in place or to bring in facilities?



Both should be workable. Honey buckets and wash station(s) are the minimal necessary and they aren't too expensive. I think most astronomers who attend star parties, at least in the west, are accustomed to self-sufficiency. Established campgrounds are comfortable but their size limits the size of the star party.

Concerning speakers & vendors: At the beginning, when starting small, I'd say these are not necessary. Certainly calling for volunteer speakers should be sufficient, pending growth.

Locations: Since I'd be traveling from western Washington, north, south or central Utah would make no difference to me -- all would be a two day trip. Goblin Valley, as urged, would be a terrific site (although your size would be limited by the size of the campground); people could set up on the road past the campground, where a little ridge cuts off campground lights, (and it has showers!)

Good luck!

#13 Alex McConahay

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 11:08 AM

Speakers, Vendors, food services......

You should decide early whether you want to have a "star party"----a bunch of people getting together to view and image the skies, -----or a "STAR PARTY"---one of thos things like Stellafane, RTMC, and others, where you have speakers, workshops, and the viewing. Having the latter is a much more complicated operation, and requires a very different set of facilities.

Alex

#14 arczeneb

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Posted 20 December 2012 - 10:40 PM

Suggest start small see if this would catch on. Goblin for me due to distance might be a twice attendance. Utah has 2 going on during summer Great Basin and Bryce. These are more public than Golden State/Texas etc. star party mostly an observers star party with a lot of information on their web sites. I lean more to an observers star party but will introduce those to our wonderful hobby.
Curious which site is picked.

#15 christinam

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 06:38 PM

Oh I am getting excited already -- I don't think No. Utah is too far a drive from Vancouver Island...we have travelled quite a distance for good skies.

Chris

#16 JayinUT

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Posted 02 April 2013 - 09:48 PM

Okay, this is now in planning and we are going to keep it quite basic this year. We have a meeting at my friend's Mat house on Saturday, April 27th say around 1:00p.m. (he does a monthly ATM session in his garage so its on rain or shine). We have posted some links on items on rules from some of the other star parties and are looking for input on those. Those are on our local forum and if you want a link, send me a PM. It will be held October 3rd, 4th and 5th. Skies in Northern Utah are usually great at this time of the year. We would have done September but many people go out to Great Basin Natl Park since they have their Star Party for the Public then. I guess August could be another possible option during the 7th, 8th, and 9th. Input on that would be appreciated.

We will be making the pre-registration ready to go by May 15th, with a web site being created for it I hope so you can download the pre-registration, then upload and send it back. We would like to have most pre-register. Here are some of the things we are planning and you can see pictures of the site and its darkness on our forum (I don't know if I can paste a link to the forum here).

We will be having a possible chili cook off for those who want to participate if enough people sign up for it.

A telescope field repair class and a discussion of grinding mirrors. We may have someone who has made their own bath interferometer and using the fringe analysis program Open fringe. This one may or may not happen.

A talk on collimation and how to successfully achieve proper collimation using a variety of tools.

A day class on sketching with several objects to try that evening. Two techniques will be reviewed.

We will have wi-fi and telecommunications set up.

There is hiking and some old mines in the area. You can also during the day drive out to Lookout Pass and view the history there on the old Pony Express Trail. There is also a local reservoir nearby where you can fish but no power boats. Limit on Rainbow and Brown Trout is 4 and you will need a fishing license.

If you ATV there are plenty of ATV trails out here away from where we set up. ATV's would have to be unloaded away from the telescope area. Were not sure if we want to include those. Thoughts?

We will also provide some observing lists for people with a certificate for completing them.

So there, that is where we are at and are moving forward.

#17 dmdouglass

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Posted 05 April 2013 - 05:19 PM

Looking forward to more information.

Where (general area)

When (general time frame)

How Long (1 night or 3-4 ) Open to before / after ???

Lots of work.... but generally very rewarding.
Depending on time frame, will probably be there.

#18 JayinUT

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Posted 08 April 2013 - 10:43 PM

Just south of Vernon Utah on the Forest land there. The spot is FR 586 Jay's Fav Observing site located here on my Google Map: .

Dates: August 8-10 or October 3-5 (all are Thurs through Saturday, 3 days). August is hot during the day and cool at night. October is wonderful during the day and cool to mildly cold at night. Best viewing though is October as the atmosphere is much more settled than in August when monsoon is fully in bloom come early August.

Sent you a PM with a link to the local site we are considering and times, dates and rules. Everything is open to discussion at this point.

The site is open before and after we get there is someone wants to stay.

#19 JayinUT

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 10:57 PM

We met today and I hope Mat and Jeff add to this.

Date: October 3rd, 4th, 5th
Location: Forest Road 006 Site 3 (as in this link.

There are plenty of camp sites among the trees.

Other items discussed were:

1. Communications. Mat has two way communication in place and internet access that will be available.
2. Charlie is willing to transport anyone with a handicap to the site. The site is a camping area and on forest land so be aware you must be able to get around such a location. Everyone else will have to get to the location themselves. Sunset is at around 7:10p.m. each night (roughly, it gets a little earlier each night of course) so it will be asked that all observers or imagers are on site no latter than a half hour before sunset.
3. Registration: I am putting together a registration sheet for review and then I'd like to get it out by May 15th. It will be an adobe document that will be mailed to UtahStarParty@gmail.com.
4. For daily activities we are not planning much. One could ATV, mountain bike or go up the Pony Express Route and visit some historical sites there. On Saturday afternoon I am going to offer a sketching clinic for anyone interested and Mat will conduct a telescope tune up and Jeff will offer a class in collimation. If someone wants to offer a session they can contact me or post a reply here.
5. Fees. This star party will be rather basic so no fees. We will have a donation jar to help cover expenses for the portapotties and a fee from the forest service.
6. Mat has graciously accepted the task of a making a list of 20, 30 and 50 for the star party. We are looking at a reward for doing it.
7. Food and Water is on your own. This is a desert environment so you do need plenty of water. There is none located on the site but you can drive over to the Vernon Reservoir to get water. No major cities or places to get supplies nearby.
8. We will have two portapotties available for use and we will have some garbage sacks but I would prefer that we all pack out what we bring in.
9. Swap table. We are not inviting vendors this year in the first year but we will have a swap table on Saturday before sunset.

Please add comments or suggestions or corrections.

Thanks,

Jay

#20 JayinUT

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 02:03 AM

This hasn't died off, we have published the Website and have made a registration form. No costs, though we ask for a $10.00 donation to offset costs if you can. Here is the link to the site. The Utah Star Party info is under the More Tab. If you wish to come, simply copy the registration information in the text of your email or download, fill out and reattach in email and end to UtahStarParty@yahoo.com. If you have questions let me know but I am in the midst of the end of a term so until Wednesday I will be swamped.






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