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Astronomy Outreach Events and Organized Star Parties moving forward

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#26 George N

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Posted 21 March 2021 - 10:43 AM

Insurance asside - Will there be "star parties" in 2021?

 

Stelafane says (https://stellafane.o...2021/index.html): "We are planning to hold a Stellafane Convention this year. However, we still need to understand what rules Vermont and the CDC will have in place for large outdoor gatherings at that time. We expect to hear about this from the governor in early April, and will then be able to plan how to structure convention to abide by these rules......."

 

The Cherry Springs Star Party is scheduled for this year - as shown on the 'PA State Parks' website - but the club that runs it notes that current (March 2021) PA state rules do not allow such events in State Parks, so they are holding off on registrations. I recently checked the popular B&Bs and hotels in the area often used by attendees - and for the most part - they are already booked solid for the star party! Somebody is gonna be there! << The one closest to the Park is booked up for months to come right now - except for full-moon weekends - and a few week days >>

 

Black Forest Star Party - in the same location --- way too early for them to say anything - even in a normal year.

 

At this point - at least in Pennsylvania and Vermont - 'state rules' are both the determing factor and are still up in the air. I would suspect that that is true most places.

 

Personally - I plan to attend all of these events - even if rolled back in size and structure. I will probably limit any viewing thru my scope to those who I know personally and have been vax'ed.


Edited by George N, 21 March 2021 - 10:45 AM.


#27 BarrySimon615

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Posted 21 March 2021 - 08:12 PM

This is America where everyone is free to worry about anything they want.

 

Ken

Not worry so much as concern.  Concerned that things are slowly changing to the point that when there are too many "ifs, ands and buts" there will be many of us that will consider the hassles involved in doing something nice to either come together as a group or to educate the public will be ultra-difficult if not impossible.

 

Barry Simon


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#28 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 21 March 2021 - 09:21 PM

Not worry so much as concern. 

<...snip...>

No good deed or intent goes unpunished.  I have experienced that myself, multiple times.


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#29 edwincjones

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Posted 22 March 2021 - 04:55 AM

No good deed or intent goes unpunished.  I have experienced that myself, multiple times.

true, so true

 

edj



#30 Bob Moore

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Posted 22 March 2021 - 04:38 PM

This is a topic the is taking up a lot of my time, waver, insurance, vaccination card, Social distancing, masks........and of course the inevitable " I can't wear a mask I have a medical problem", along with the moral issues that go with putting on a major event with Covid still active. 


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#31 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 22 March 2021 - 04:59 PM

From Wikipedia:

 

"In the United States, Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and similar state rules require that an attorney perform a due diligence investigation concerning the factual basis for any claim or defense. Jurisdictions differ on whether a claim or defense can be frivolous if the attorney acted in good faith. Because such a defense or claim wastes the court's and the other parties' time, resources and legal fees, sanctions may be imposed by a court upon the party or the lawyer who presents the frivolous defense or claim. The law firm may also be sanctioned, or even held in contempt."

 

The only thing that has changed is Covid.   When the pandemic is declared over by the CDC, only then can gatherings be held in the US with confidence.  Even if there is still a little Covid around, that declaration will carry enormous weight, IMO.


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#32 BarrySimon615

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Posted 23 March 2021 - 12:56 PM

This is a topic the is taking up a lot of my time, waver, insurance, vaccination card, Social distancing, masks........and of course the inevitable " I can't wear a mask I have a medical problem", along with the moral issues that go with putting on a major event with Covid still active. 

I really believe that a lot of people that have never been on the front lines of running a star party - one with registration fees, program and speaker logistics and their coordination, contests, raffles, housing issues, parking issues, vendor coordination, etc., etc. - have no real concept of what is involved.  For most of us it is a labor of love.  Admittedly in many ways it does become easier over time because we have learned how to do it, we know what works and what doesn't and we have learned how to anticipate problems simply because most problems are not unique, they are repetitive.

 

In many cases profit margins are thin.  Many (but not all) star parties are break even events.  The primary purpose is not to make money for the hosting organization, the primary purpose is to make the star party an enjoyable experience for the attendees.  In doing this a line or two from "Star Trek - The Wrath of Khan" comes to mind - "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (or the one)."  Some may leave a star party in some way feeling that they were slighted, they were disappointed, etc., etc.  I am sure this is true at almost if not all star parties.  Typically these are the people that want to have everything their way at a star party.  Be it a primo spot on the field, the best bunk, the most perfect weather, etc., etc.  and they want to do things the way they want to do things.  They rationalize that what is best for them should be ok for everyone else. These are the very people that concern me most when it comes to following reasonable rules for the betterment of all, particularly last year and this year.  These are the potential attendees that can make a reasonably safe experience something that is less than ideally safe.

 

So how to we fix this, especially now?  Information, information, information.  We have to spell things out.  We have to let people know what to expect and what conditions will be like.  We especially have to let people know that while we can issue weather forecasts leading into a star party, we cannot guarantee that the weather forecast will be correct all the time.  The attendees, especially the new ones that may be attending a star party for the first time have to be informed as to what to expect and what we expect of them.  I am sure that more than a few of you reading this that are part of star party management have had to play star party policeman (a job I really hate to do) to inform someone that they cannot do what they are doing and the behavior or action has to stop immediately.  Examples of such have included -

 

1) Someone arriving late and setting up a telescope in the dark using a florescent shop light to do it.  Must have been a member of the Bonehead Club.

 

2) Multiple times having to stop someone from using a green laser pointer or finder, in spite of this being clearly spelled out in the rules.

 

3) Someone calling ahead and wanting permission to drive in late after dark.  Make an exception for me.  Sorry, no can do, unless it is completely cloudy.

 

4) Someone coming into a private bunkhouse to use the bathroom facilities instead of going to the general bath house to which they are assigned.  (This one is especially important in 2020 and 2021.)

 

5) Someone going up to an unattended telescope and either looking thru it, or trying to move it without permission or knowing anything about it.  Are the clutches locked, is it doing a photographic run, etc., etc.?

 

And the list goes on.

 

No wonder there are concerns about liability insurance.

 

Perhaps a bigger concern is when that labor of love becomes just labor.

 

Barry Simon


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#33 WadeH237

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Posted 23 March 2021 - 03:30 PM

I really believe that a lot of people that have never been on the front lines of running a star party

I've been thinking a lot about this lately.

 

I retired last year and have moved onto property in a rural area that could easily host even a large star party.  Part of me wants to start an annual event with attendance open to everyone.  But then another part of my brain jumps out and screams "What, are you NUTS?!?"  All of the issues that you convey later in your post are good reasons to not do this.  Beyond that, I would need to do a deep investigation into the liability issues.

 

I'll probably still end up doing something because I love sharing astronomy with others who appreciate the night sky.  But it'll almost certainly be by invitation only, and limited to people that I know pretty well.

 

Beyond that, I have been a regular attendee at a number of star parties for decades.  Part of me is interested in volunteering to serve on the board of one of them.  The thing that holds me back, is that, at least until now, that particular event has been the centerpiece of my summer vacation time.  I'm concerned that if I were part of the star party organization, that it would change from my "unwind and recharge" time into more work.  Now that I am retired, I may be more tolerant of that, so I'll keep thinking about it.


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#34 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 23 March 2021 - 04:12 PM

I have a great 18 acre dark site.  I have tried a few times to generate interest in having an invitation only star party there, but there has been no real interest. 

 

I guess my site is too isolated and remote, and weather in the Boston Mountains of N. Arkansas is very unpredictable.  We could easily host 10 to 20 people over a three day weekend.  More if the hay has been recently cut, and we brought in more portapotties. 

 

I think it takes a fairly dedicated astronomy hobbiest to rough it for a star party.


Edited by John Fitzgerald, 23 March 2021 - 04:13 PM.

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#35 BarrySimon615

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Posted 23 March 2021 - 09:51 PM

I've been thinking a lot about this lately.

 

I retired last year and have moved onto property in a rural area that could easily host even a large star party.  Part of me wants to start an annual event with attendance open to everyone.  But then another part of my brain jumps out and screams "What, are you NUTS?!?"  All of the issues that you convey later in your post are good reasons to not do this.  Beyond that, I would need to do a deep investigation into the liability issues.

 

 

I encourage you to try, but start SMALL.  As I said running a star party is a learning curve.  Our 1st Deep South Star Gaze back in 1983 was just one night and had a registration of 53.  When we were going hot and heavy 15 years later our registration was up close to 200 and our event was 5 nights in length.  You might want to make your first event an "Invitational".  Advertise the pluses of your site and ask for advice.  If your heart is in it and the Weather Gods smile on you expect a success but remember to learn from your mistakes.

 

Best of luck with a dash of hard work!

 

Barry Simon



#36 BarrySimon615

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Posted 23 March 2021 - 09:54 PM

I have a great 18 acre dark site.  I have tried a few times to generate interest in having an invitation only star party there, but there has been no real interest. 

 

I guess my site is too isolated and remote, and weather in the Boston Mountains of N. Arkansas is very unpredictable.  We could easily host 10 to 20 people over a three day weekend.  More if the hay has been recently cut, and we brought in more portapotties. 

 

I think it takes a fairly dedicated astronomy hobbiest to rough it for a star party.

I will come if it doesn't conflict with the dates of the Deep South Star Gaze.  What you describe is much like the Kisatchie Star Party which was held at an unimproved site on National Forest Service land in western Louisiana not far from Toledo Bend.  It was pretty popular.

 

Barry Simon



#37 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 12:07 AM

The 2021 Cherry Springs Star Party has unfortunately been canceled.

 

https://www.facebook...pringsStarParty



#38 Augustus

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 12:54 AM

The 2021 Cherry Springs Star Party has unfortunately been canceled.

https://www.facebook...pringsStarParty

If you consider that everybody who was interested this year will just go anyways, the cancellation is little more than a feel-good formality.

Edited by Augustus, 26 March 2021 - 12:54 AM.

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#39 kennyrichmond

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 05:54 AM

The Covid distress for conscientious star party organizers is sanitation (Porta Potties). See page six and the recommendations for event planners.  (http://psai.uberflip...e-sanitation/5?)

 

Personally, if I had to use public park facilities, I'd use a full-face respirator with two N-100 filters and holster two spray cans of Micro-ban. 

 

Ken


Edited by kennyrichmond, 26 March 2021 - 05:55 AM.


#40 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 07:41 AM

I think most star parties will never again be held.  Just my opinion.

 

Most organizers are getting old and it's more trouble to them than it's worth. 


Edited by John Fitzgerald, 26 March 2021 - 08:07 AM.

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#41 BarrySimon615

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 08:45 AM

I guess I am by nature just a more optimistic person. I believe star parties, even major ones, will be held again. Certainly some changes will be in place. At some point we may see additional requirements as a condition of registration that new safeguards are followed. These could very likely include spacing requirements as to equipment setup and even vaccination requirements via either an honor system statement or showing the vaccination card that we all get when vaccinated. Life and it’s activities will go on with some prudent changes that we will have to adjust to.

Note - at our upcoming Deep South Spring Scrimmage (May 4th to the 9th) we are asking registrants to check the appropriate box on our registration form as to their vaccination status. Those that are vaccinated that need bunk space will be in the newest bunk house where we can fill it to our normal capacity. Those that are not vaccinated will be in other bunk houses which are not as new or nice. We will keep headcount down in those. Others will be in their own TVs/campers or tents. There are separate sh/shower/shave facilities for each of the bunkhouses and for general use and registrants have to use the facilities for their bunkhouse without crossover.

The Spring Scrimmage has a lower attendance than the Deep South in the fall. It is a no frills event and I and the venue owners at White Horse do not anticipate any issues such as event cancellation. Hopefully by November when we do the larger “Deep South” we can really be back to normal.

Barry Simon

#42 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 08:57 AM

I am of the general outlook that if anything bad can happen,  then plan for it.  The attendance for most of the big star parties peaked several years ago, and attendance was already falling prior to Covid.

 

The star party attendance crowd is aging out.  I observed this very well at the TSP 2019.


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#43 Augustus

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 08:59 AM

I am of the general outlook that if anything bad can happen,  then plan for it.  The attendance for most of the big star parties peaked several years ago, and attendance was already falling prior to Covid.

 

The star party attendance crowd is aging out.  I observed this very well at the TSP 2019.

Killing events for a second year in a row is also a great way to ensure that they are forgotten about by those not seriously involved in years prior, and could easily run the coffers of the organizers dry. 


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#44 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 09:02 AM

Zane is correct.  After two years off, it would almost be like starting from scratch.   People will have moved on.


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#45 Augustus

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 09:46 AM

Zane is correct.  After two years off, it would almost be like starting from scratch.   People will have moved on.

CSSP will be fine because people go to Cherry Springs anyways. Stellafane has a huge fund for emergencies where they have to cancel.

 

The Winter Star Party or Texas Star Party could actually never happen again IMHO.



#46 George N

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 01:13 PM

CSSP will be fine because people go to Cherry Springs anyways. Stellafane has a huge fund for emergencies where they have to cancel.

 

The Winter Star Party or Texas Star Party could actually never happen again IMHO.

Well if 2020 is any indicator - the Astronomy Field at Cherry Springs State Park will be filled to the point of 'good social distance' observing - ie about 10 feet between observing set-ups - nearly any low-moonlight night. I recently checked rooms at the BnB, hotels, and nearly all the moonless weekends for the next 3 or 4 months have already been booked - but you can still get full moon time!  ;)  On the other hand reports from 2020 are - more 'issues' with people not following 'the rules' - as in dark sky observing rules, not 'covid rules' - because there were many people with no connection to "astronomy" beyond wanting to see the Milky Way - and party. Hopefully the Park staff will do a better job with controling it all this year. That was all consistant with people flooding the "outdoors" because it was one place to go during 'covid'. I live in NY's Adirondacks for 2 to 3 months per year - and I have never seen so many people there as last year - with the trails full of the 'clueless' - even will all the 'attractions' and resturants closed.

 

People set up under dark sky observing is a 'good thing' -- but it is not a "star party" -- where much of the point is socializing and attending day-time stuff, like lectures.

 

WSP has survived its share of problems over the years - including huricane damage. I don't know enough about TSP to comment.


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#47 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 01:42 PM

The Prude Ranch, home of the TSP, is holding a "WesTex Star Party" in May.

 

https://prude-ranch....tex-star-party/

 

http://prude-ranch.c...onavirus-rules/


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#48 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 04:42 PM

The Prude Ranch, home of the TSP, is holding a "WesTex Star Party" in May.

 

https://prude-ranch....tex-star-party/

 

http://prude-ranch.c...onavirus-rules/

If it goes well this year, I don't see why Prude Ranch wouldn't want to run it themselves from now on.


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#49 Augustus

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 05:11 PM

If it goes well this year, I don't see why Prude Ranch wouldn't want to run it themselves from now on.

Yeah, I don't know the TSP prices but they'd sort of be cutting out the middleman if they did that.



#50 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 05:18 PM

Prude seems to be charging their regular rates, but I don't see a registration fee mentioned.  That would save $100 per person over the TSP.


Edited by John Fitzgerald, 26 March 2021 - 06:40 PM.

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