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Grand Canyon Star Party - June 21-June 28 2014

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#1 Skylook123

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 03:08 PM

The 24th annual Grand Canyon Star Party (GCSP) will be held the nights of June 21 through 28, 2014, 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. Visitors 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 accommodate 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 generally 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
Grand Canyon Star Party - 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
Grand Canyon Star Party - 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

#2 seawolfe

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Posted 01 December 2013 - 10:31 AM

Shouldn't this be in the Astronomy Star Parties group?

#3 Skylook123

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Posted 01 December 2013 - 12:00 PM

GCSP is a high intensity public outreach event, with the astronomer participants serving as National Park Service volunteer Interpretive Rangers generating as many as 70,000 visitor contacts over the eight days and nights of the even, so about three years ago we started putting it into this forum to limit the confusion that sometimes would come up about the purpose of the event.

I put a link to this location in the Astronomy Clubs and Star Parties forum.

#4 skyward_eyes

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Posted 08 December 2013 - 08:35 PM

Looking forward to this once again. All booked for this as well. I will have a newly acquired Coronado double stack 90 for solar this coming year!

#5 Skylook123

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Posted 08 December 2013 - 09:28 PM

I think I'll be napping then!

I've had some good luck with live video, and we should have quite a group at the front of the lot for the eyeball and walking challenged.

#6 skyguy88

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Posted 09 December 2013 - 12:45 AM

I think I'll be napping then!

I've had some good luck with live video, and we should have quite a group at the front of the lot for the eyeball and walking challenged.

.....and everyone else who really want to see all those cool things up there
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#7 skyward_eyes

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 09:39 AM

Jim,

The video rigs were quite a hit last year. I think it was be a mistake not to have it this coming year. Its a great addition to the visual experience.

#8 Skylook123

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Posted 10 December 2013 - 06:09 PM

Most of the time last year, my granddaughter Karina ran the scope while I was in the theater working with the night talk. On Saturday night, I had left the whole setup aligned the night befor to not have to go through all the fuss that was taking Karina so long to get going. Since she had a headache Saturday night, my wife Susan ran the setup and had 400 visitors in two hours!

This year it looks like we'll have at least six live video setups present, probably more. Eyeball at the eyepiece still grabs the personal feeling for the observer, but the live video helped at least four wheelchair or visually impaired folks every night last year. Nice augmentation, and we might try to get an image each night to post on the Grand Canyon's web site.

#9 Skylook123

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Posted 17 May 2014 - 11:24 AM

OK, all you outreach gurus, and not so gurus, who plan to be in the area next month, the Grand Canyon Star Party is about five weeks away.

For a great time opening the universe to thousands of visitors, sign up and join us for one night, all eight nights, or anything in between. See the first post in this thread for information.

#10 Mickey_C

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Posted 19 May 2014 - 08:25 AM

Jim,

Are they mailing the volunteer packets soon?

Mike

#11 Skylook123

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Posted 20 May 2014 - 05:07 PM

I have to wait until I get all the formal information and guidance from the Park, and they usually hold off until three weeks or so before the event so they don't have to back-track on anything, and so they have a handle on how the fire danger and other unique circumstances are going.

Our NPS Interpretive Ranger for the event just got back today from her fourth furlough since last year, so she'll be getting me the information soon and I'll get it out as soon as I can.

#12 Megabusa

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 04:18 PM

To bad for me I wont be able to go :( I live so close to , and I know some of the people that runs the N.Rim , I use to work for Forever Resorts , Maybe next time :smirk:

#13 skyward_eyes

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 08:05 AM

Looking forward to this once again. I will be bringing some of my solar stuff this year. Make sure to stop by the visitor center during the day for a view!

#14 Skylook123

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Posted 24 May 2014 - 11:58 PM

To bad for me I wont be able to go :( I live so close to , and I know some of the people that runs the N.Rim , I use to work for Forever Resorts , Maybe next time :smirk:


Sure hope so. The more, the merrier. I have the same problem in the opposite direction; I want to head over to Page and Antelope Canyon during GCSP, but never seem to have the time. My wife has dozens of great pictures she's taken on a couple of our trips to Antelope, but that was before I was coordinating GCSP.

Hope you can drop in as a volunteer, or even a visitor.

#15 Skylook123

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Posted 25 May 2014 - 12:04 AM

Looking forward to this once again. I will be bringing some of my solar stuff this year. Make sure to stop by the visitor center during the day for a view!


Great, Kevin. I'll be trying to cover the VC early in the week until you get there. I'm really getting some great performance out of the plain vanilla LS60-THa/B600 on live video.

#16 azpalmer

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Posted 25 May 2014 - 09:08 PM

Jim, do we have a new t-shirt design this year?

Also, it looks like our RLD group will have between 8-10 scopes coming when we arrive on Wed.

#17 Skylook123

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Posted 25 May 2014 - 10:01 PM

Jim,

Joe has taken a hiatus from logos for the time being; he has given us permission to reuse the library of great creations he has provided in the past, so our t-shirt committee had some reviews within the club and we will have one from the past, with a slightly different background color since the recommended "desert tan" shade has disappeared, as we found in a nationwide search to find enough shirts. Beginning next year, we'll be having a contest for a design, for which we are still working out the mechanics.

Registrations so far are a bit below prior years, but I think the fact we will have a half-dozen live video imagers in the gang will more than compensate for a few less OTAs. Thanks to the RLD attending, we'll still end up being the A-Team of outreach! And several new, tremendous outreach speakers will be present for the night talks. Monsoon better hold off!!

#18 azpalmer

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Posted 25 May 2014 - 10:27 PM

I too hope the monsoons will hold off until after the star party. I know late June is hard to predict for weather.

Once you & Marker connect, let me know where you want our group to setup when we come in. The bottom end of the parking lot worked well for us last year; but as in the past we can make the upper lot work as well.

#19 BRCoz

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 08:37 PM

I am getting my gear ready. This will be my first time attending. I have waited for years to come enjoy the fun of sharing the night sky with others. I will see you on Sunday.

#20 Skylook123

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 09:33 PM

Great! National Weather Service is predicting late monsoon, with a wet winter for the Southwest like an El Nino cycle. Lookin' good for weather.

#21 skyward_eyes

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Posted 20 June 2014 - 07:43 PM

All set and ready. We'll see you Wednesday as usual.

#22 rockethead26

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Posted 22 June 2014 - 10:40 AM

Jim,

My wife and are are making a last minute trip to the south rim tonight for a birthday dinner at El Tovar. We'll see you over at the viewing area tonight. Hopefully I can find you.

#23 Skylook123

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Posted 22 June 2014 - 12:30 PM

Jim,

My wife and are are making a last minute trip to the south rim tonight for a birthday dinner at El Tovar. We'll see you over at the viewing area tonight. Hopefully I can find you.


GREAT. I'll be in the theater until around 9 PM, then out at the scope. I'm set up at the entrance to the observing site behind the Main Visitor Center, in a roped off area for the video setups. Right now, I'm the furthest back of three setups, look for the tall blue Meade 10" SCT. My grandson will have the Teeter over on the opposite side of the lot with the big scopes. There are three Teeters at least; my 18", John Anderson's 14", and Kevin Koski's 14.5", one of the earliest Teater's built.

#24 Skylook123

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Posted 22 June 2014 - 01:12 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY ONE - Cloud Chasing

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

Weather: High 70s at Noon, Low 80s at sunset, 55 when we quit near Midnight. Total overcast during the day, some thinning at sunset, gusts near 30 mph until sunset, gradual and intermittent clearing from about 50% to 85% cloud by 10 PM.

Seeing and Transparency: OK to mediocre on rapid cycles; I held Saturn in video at over 620X but focus was very tough at times.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs (unused due to gusts)
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior PRO video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor.

This began our fourth year at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Setup was similar to last year, with the telescopes around the perimeter and foot and astronomer vehicle traffic up the middle. We added a rope isolation zone for the video, to keep the pedestrians from cutting through and tripping on cables, and to allow us to stay set up instead of breaking down every night.

Four of us made the trip this year. Fifteen year old grandson Stephen came as the dob driver and all-around work horse for night setup of the lighted cones and traffic control, and 17 year old Karina to assist Ranger setup for the night traffic as well. Both also helped with the night talk, handing out star maps to the theater entrants.

After checking into the lodge, Stephen and I dropped off the two telescopes. The big dob is in the permanent setup location, and the big SCT with the imaging capability is set up at the entrance to the site. We returned Friday night and did dry runs on the theater setup and marking off the telescope setup areas. The theater is awaiting delivery of repair components and is not in use during the day, so they set up for us in the old fashioned way; a projector at the back of the room fed by VGA video from a laptop, and if sound is needed, a jury rigged PA speaker using the earphone jack. The dongle for the slide clicker would not work in Dr. James Rice's MAC laptop so I would be slide flipper in the back for talk. After the theater checkout, I set up the 10" and did a polar and stellar alignment; looked ready to go. It took two and a half hours, because walk through traffic had visitors playing "ask the astronomer" in the dark. Our lead Interpretive Ranger, Marker Marshall, walked me back from the theater to my setup with her flashlight, and immediately started to "service the interrupts" from a family group of four, who were leaving the next day and wouldn't get to the main event, so Marker gave them a walk around sky through the holes in the clouds. Then Marker left, and I finished the setup and started the alignment. Several groups of pedestrians came walking through, and, since standing was preferable to contorting myself doing the manual star alignment, I ended up discussing the night sky with about 16 visitors. Finally finished setup about 11:30 PM and headed back to the room.

Saturday was the usual running around getting things organized. Stephen helped me hang the banner at the Visitor Center, and we brought a screen tent for Ginger Applegarth's information center campsite which we quickly set up. I later hear that the winds blew it across the camp area, but it eventually got repositioned and stabilized.

Jack Huerkamp from Mallincam USA was setting up next to me, and it was a great experience to just yak about things. He had quite a complement of equipment to dazzle visitors.

I finished set up by 6:30 PM, and we headed into the theater to do a dry run of the setup. Everything was working, so back out to the 7 PM astronomer meeting and Otter Pops.

Speaking of GCNP, I can't praise enough about, and be amazed by, the level of effort and quality of environment provided by our lead interpretive Ranger Marker Marshall, her assistants Mike Weaver, Rader Lane and Ty Korlovetz, and the Park Aids who did all of the setup this year, both the elimination of the light intrusion as well as all of the traffic barrier setup, signboard construction, schedule production, and many more activities to make this all possible. They also had help from Will Golz, a recent high school grad who, with his parents, has been coming to GCSP as volunteer astronomers for many years.

The winds were well in excess of forecast for the entire day, as well as virtually total cloud cover. It was time to head into the theater for the night talk by Dr. James Rice. We had a special kickoff this year when the Deputy Superintendent Diane Chalfant did the introduction to GCSP 2014. Quite an honor!

So was getting Dr. Rice to talk for two nights. NASA astro-geologist specializing in the exploration of the Solar System, especially the Moon and Mars. Geology Team Leader for the Mars Exploration Rover Project (Spirit and Opportunity), he also worked on the Mars Odyssey Orbiter and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Projects. In addition he has performed Mars landing site selection and certification activities for every NASA Mars Mission since Mars Pathfinder in 1995. A NASA astronaut finalist, nine time recipient of the NASA Group Achievement Award, and elected a Fellow of the National Research Council, his Saturday talk was on Mars Rover results, including data less than 24 hours old, while his Sunday talk will be on the Apollo program and what we accomplished and learned. The Mars talk was fascinating, and the audience asked many great questions related to the results and direction of current and future explorations.

Back out at the site, we found about 50% or more of the sky had cleared, and business was booming. Jack and Mike were working their imaging systems, and I powered up to join in. We all had equipment issues, but finally overcame them. After replacing a dead power cable I found my alignment from the night before was useless. Nearly perfect polar alignment, my star alignment was at least five degrees off so I couldn't get Hercules Cluster or The Ring like I wanted. I pulled out all the focal reduction, jumping from f/3.2 to f/10, and hand slewed to Saturn for the night. At over 620X, it was dead center and stayed there. By now, with all the issues, it was 10 PM, time for my constellation tour so I left Stephen with Saturn and started the tour.

The sky had cleared nicely, so I was able to do my full cultural and cosmological tour. Great group of about 16 people, easy to work with that size crowd. We walked around the sky and pointed out the usual landmarks and I added the many-culture aspect of what they were observing. Headed back to the scope, and Saturn was still there! Because of the high power, I couldn't get the focuser motor onto the knob or would have lost the image, so focus was not great but now that I have the system configured, I'll put the motor on and have a great view tonight.

Too windy to use the big dob, we stuck with Saturn until the crowd evaporated and we shut down. I can't get over how gorgeous Jack's images from his Mallincam Extreme of so many objects were that he was showing off. He had a great alignment, and was able to hop all around Sagittarius eye candy, and then over to The Sombrero, Bode's Nebula/Cigar Galaxy (M82), and with the f number less than 2 with the Hyperstar, he had about a 1.5 degree FOV. Just awesome images in the multiple displays he was demonstrating for the multitude.

A great talk by Dr. Rice, good recovery with my setup, a very nice constellation tour that could be a lot more personal with less than the usual fifty or so, and those jaw dropping views in Jack's multi screen displays has me charged up to fix the alignment tonight and show off my own eye candy.

Heading over to the Sunday Pizza Party, charged up for Dr. Rice's Apollo talk, and ready to rock and roll for night two.

The adventure has begun!
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#25 Skylook123

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 12:27 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY TWO - Close To Perfect

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

Weather: Mid 70s at Noon, Low 70s at sunset, 40ish when we quit near Midnight. Patchy clouds during the day, clearing after sunset, gusts around 20 mph until around 9:30 PM.

Seeing and Transparency: The gusts early on made it hard for me to judge, but seemed very good in the few early moments of calm. I again held Saturn in video at over 620X, a feature of the aperture and speed of the big SCT combined with the effective focal length of the MCJR PRO, but great focus was really impossible. Way over driving the instrument.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs (unused again due to gusts)
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior PRO video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor.

Tonight started in a very disappointing way due to the weather, but despite the sleep deprivation and low temps, it became my best night I can every recall with a telescope, all due to the astounding performance of the camera, when nailing the settings.

We had our annual pizza party in the campground, and it was great to see everyone again. Our speaker for the two nights, Dr. James W. Rice, came and I stayed an hour and a half longer than I planned. I had thought about running out and setting up the Lunt for some daytime public outreach, but it was so fascinating to listen to Jim's historical information I just couldn't break away from the picnic table. And then I noticed that the clouds had blown in anyway, so it was win-win.

With sunset so late now that we are at the end of June, the planets have not yet become visible when we need to go into the theater to get ready for the night talk so my setup was inert when we went in, leaving Jack Huerkamp as the lone video setup. I came out and jumped on Saturn and we were showing the planet in about 10 minutes.

I shut things down so I could run over and do the 10 PM constellation tour. Went great, folks loved it, and I headed back to the scope.

Being so frustrated at looking over my shoulder at the tour-de-force that Jack was showing, all over Sagittarius, Sombrero, Whirlpool, on and on, I said what the heck, and redid the alignment, this time using the MCJR PRO and cross hairs on the monitor, at 620X. I used a three star to account for any cone error in the setup and used Merak, Spica, and Vega. Then I configured the system for f/3.2 to deep sky, and re-centered on Vega to adjust focus at the new light path. I set the camera for 2.1 seconds integration time to pick out the trace of The Ring, selected it, and holy cow, dead center. I installed the wireless controller, upped the integration time to five seconds, and the beautiful object was there. I realized I still had AGC Off, so I set it at 3, zoom to 1.8, and adjusted the white balance and an awesome Ring was alive, the size of a nickel in the monitor, with BOTH central stars visible.

Then, magic. I selected the Dumbbell, and bang on dead center. I set the integration to seven seconds, and the beauty of the object was not to be believed. In the 19" monitor, it filled a third of the vertical space and about 20% of horizontal. The diaphanous curtain of the giant apple core was one of the best views I have ever seen in astronomy. The air temperature was down around 45 degrees by now when I noticed one other fantastic effect; only three or four hot pixels. Down in Tucson, there would have been one hundred or more. No filters, no hot pixel elimination, no dark flat, nothing...just one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life in astronomy.

Meanwhile, Jack was having some problems with his Celestron mount similar to what I've had for a year or more with my Atlas, but somewhat worse. In my case, being on my third hand controller in seven years, I sometimes get all black squares across my display face. The only way to reset is to pull the cable and reinstall, and the screen comes back but it's lost alignment data. It does remember stepper motor positions, so it can be parked, or realigned. In Jack's case, his hand controller was giving him a blank screen, then reinitializing so he had to go through a realignment. His recovery, though, is much quicker than mine because of his Celestron automated alignment routine, while mine uses the Synta firmware that takes what seems like forever.

All in all, a great ending, ready for Monday and better weather






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