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Astronomy Outreach Events and Organized Star Parties moving forward

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#51 The Planetman

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 10:42 PM

Being the chairman/leader/main field trash collector for 22 of the 25 years of Twin Lakes Star Party (1990-2014), I can tell you, I've seen a lot of things......only a very few bad things......we were very lucky and had no issues that warranted an insurance claim.  Although, the first year at our new party site in 2003, a gentleman caught his foot on a root in the middle of the observing field and fractured his ankle.  Funny thing?  He was a lawyer...ain't no lie.  He was cool about the whole matter and said he should have been more careful and mindful.  That time was luck on our side. 

 

Anyway, when, and if, things "return to normal, my thoughts are some of the smaller parties will have vanished.  The bigger and biggest parties will have a reduction in attendance. 

When the recession of 2008 hit, gas was flirting with $4/gallon, and in some places, more than that, a lot of parties took an attendance hit.  Some even disappeared a year or two after that due to the lack of attendance vs. the cost of operations.  We had an average of 85, and even over 100 during the big dob years of 1999 to around 2005.  After 2008, our attendance was just a little over half from pre-recession, and gradually decreased after that.   Some people lost interest, some got too old, some passed away, some moved to another area of the country.

 

But I think the pandemic has scared a lot of people.  And with good reason.  It's not something that is to be taken lightly. 

 

Another thing that is going to play into the future of star parties are the astronomy clubs that sponsor them.  Most, like ours, haven't been able to meet in over a year.  I worry about the ultimate fate of our now small club and all the other smaller clubs out there.  Again, interest is lost, people learn to observe and image on their own....and other scenarios that could bring folks to becoming disinterested in attending club meetings.  

 

I certainly hope I am wrong, and hope some day someone can post "Ross, you sure were wrong with that prediction..." 


Edited by The Planetman, 26 March 2021 - 10:48 PM.


#52 BarrySimon615

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 10:49 PM

I do agree with the aging crowd statements.  I attended my first Texas Star Party in 1983.  On my first day there I was still 30 years old and before I left I had turned 31.  Several more trips to Texas followed including 1997 when TSP was held near Leakey, TX due to some negotiation disagreements I think.  My last 2 trips to TSP were in 2000 and 2002.  I commented then to several of my traveling companions that we were an aging crowd with many familiar but older faces; something that 17 to 19 years of time will do.  Now it is another 19 years past 1983 and I wonder how many charter members of TSP are left and how their physical and mental abilities compare to what it was back in the early years.  Speaking for myself I know that at age 68 my 30 year old self would kick my butt physically.  Mentally I belief I am still ok but sometimes the processing time is a bit slower.

 

Not only is the crowd aging but because of that and now because of external issues that crowd is, as several have said, is getting smaller.  Can this be reversed or is this a natural process as older amateur astronomers are being replaced by younger amateur astronomers who are more content in doing remote imaging or simply just satisfying their astronomy urges thru pathways that do not rely on star parties at remote dark sites?

 

Barry Simon


Edited by BarrySimon615, 27 March 2021 - 06:02 PM.


#53 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 26 March 2021 - 11:06 PM

Another thing that is going to play into the future of star parties are the astronomy clubs that sponsor them.  Most, like ours, haven't been able to meet in over a year.  I worry about the ultimate fate of our now small club and all the other smaller clubs out there.  Again, interest is lost, people learn to observe and image on their own....and other scenarios that could bring folks to becoming disinterested in attending club meetings.

It may be a result of the pandemic-induced-surge in interest in amateur astronomy but the number of members in the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg is now greater than it ever has been.


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#54 PNW

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Posted 28 March 2021 - 12:54 AM

Good point Dave. I can see the big, highly organized star parties with days of speakers, activities for the kids, and lots of vendor tents fading away for a while. I hope they will be replaced by the smaller clubs getting out of the meeting rooms and opening up their "members only" star parties to include more guest observers. We're anxiously waiting for more Vaccine Passports to be issued so we can start star parties on the Island again. We're a small Island and get 4 to 6 scopes and about a dozen guests by word of mouth. 


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#55 George N

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Posted 28 March 2021 - 09:59 AM

Good point Dave.

<...snip...>

It will be interesting to see what happens at the "revised TSP" or whatever it is called. Springtime in the Northeast is not looking good - with CSSP 2021 canceled (but if clear I bet the venue will be packed with observers - just no 'events' or 'vendors' or long lines at the big Dobs - at least not mine). Thanks to the 'fame' of Cherry Springs the CSSP was always filled up months in advance - and the venue itself had something of a 2020 'covid surge' of its own - with many 'newbies' packing the place - some even showing up on full moon!

 

Same with NEAF ( a sort of star party on steroids - minus the actual stars to observe ). NEAF seemed to me to be having declining attendance - at least on Sunday - but then in 2019 it came surging back - and there *were* young people to be seen.

 

I don't think there will be a 'loss of interest' - but if "covid cancels" continue for too much longer there might be a loss of knowledge as experienced event organizers drift away - and perhaps vendors see less of a reason to support them. WW-II did that to Stellafane - where in the post-war years there were too few 'experienced' left in the area to really run the event - until an outside organization took over for a few years and reinvented the Convention so that it could be organized by a group not living in the immediate area.


Edited by George N, 28 March 2021 - 02:00 PM.

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#56 rcdk

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Posted 05 April 2021 - 08:13 AM

In other (non astronomy related) events and conventions that are being held post covid I am seeing about a 25% attendance rate.

The two reasons given for the 75% who are passing on the event are exactly what you would expect: concern about the virus on one side and not wanting to follow the masking and social distancing rules (or concerns about enforcement of those rules) on the other side.

One event I attended split the difference and made the rules but had zero enforcement. That actually worked better than I expected.
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#57 BarrySimon615

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Posted 09 April 2021 - 10:22 AM

The biggest hurdle faced by any star party is the weather.  Just this morning I was going to leave to attend the Mid-South Star Gaze for one night along with 2 friends.  I have attended before but it has been about 15 years.  It is held in a nice area just off the Natchez Trace about 90 miles north of Jackson, MS.  The ride up is part of the attraction.  However the weather forecast for Friday late afternoon and overnight is pretty dismal with high winds, rain, possible tornadoes and hail.  Being that we were only really going up to visit for part of Friday afternoon, stay overnight and then visit some more on Saturday before heading home, we decided that bailing out was in our best interest given the forecast.  The fact that like all star parties, access to buildings was limited due to the pandemic, it made our decision easier.

 

Hopefully the weather will improve dramatically for the last night of MSSG for those planning on going for just Saturday night or for those who have been there since the beginning.  We are at the mercy of the weather beyond anything else.

 

Barry Simon


Edited by BarrySimon615, 09 April 2021 - 10:00 PM.


#58 iam1ru12

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Posted 22 April 2021 - 10:55 PM

It may be a result of the pandemic-induced-surge in interest in amateur astronomy but the number of members in the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg is now greater than it ever has been.

We’re seeing similar growth at the Raleigh Astronomy Club.  We’re also seeing a younger and more diverse crowd.

 

-Mike


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#59 Pilot87178d

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Posted 01 May 2021 - 02:38 PM

Will be very pleased to be at the two Cherry Springs events and Staunton as soon as all controlling parties feel they are aligned and ready......that way, can be looking at the sky as opposed to looking over my shoulder at whom might be too close for safety. Am grateful for the clubs that organize these things and hope they can continue to do so.

M  


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#60 George N

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Posted 04 May 2021 - 01:34 PM

Will be very pleased to be at the two Cherry Springs events and Staunton as soon as all controlling parties feel they are aligned and ready......that way, can be looking at the sky as opposed to looking over my shoulder at whom might be too close for safety. Am grateful for the clubs that organize these things and hope they can continue to do so.

M  

Cherry Springs Star Party for 2021 is canceled. Black Forest is still possible. The Park itself is open - as it was all last year - with the usual 'rules' in place -- plus the additional covid rules ( bottom line - masks required inside and outside if not 'socially distanced' ).

 

Some friends and I are considering going there for 4 nights starting Monday May 10th.




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