Camp Hancock Star Party - May 2003

The May '03 star party at Camp Hancock was a fun event, although the weather was challenging at times. After all, 'star' is only half of the story at a star party!

I drove to camp on Friday afternoon beneath varying amounts of cloud-cover, and scattered windmills along the route between Wasco and Condon. A few of the clouds decided to lighten up, dumping decent amounts of rain as I neared Fossil. When I arrived at camp I found the area to be somewhat muddy, shocking for central Oregon in late May! I found myself a small cabin all to myself, threw in my gear, then unloaded my telescope as skies slowly improved. I was late for dinner, but had eaten enough along the road to compensate. I located several other observers and their homes away from home, and finally dressed for the expected chill as skies cleared (somewhat) and Jupiter made an appearance. Many clouds were unwilling to depart, most especially those in Leo and Virgo; this was a tough break since I had planned to hunt down several minor planets in that area. Skies were not up to any ambitious plans this night, though, so my 8-inch and I instead wandered through a mental Messier list (humidity was plenty high enough to make sponges out of paper books, so it was better this way). I found M3 more swiftly than 95% of my attempts, and before too long I had a dozen M's checked off. Those clouds finally drifted off as Leo dropped near the horizon, too late for any serious scrutiny of the area, so I spent time wandering among the locals to chat, help with searches, and sip my soda. I finally stepped away for good near 2AM and slept well.

I awoke at breakfast time, tidied up my car & observing area, knocked off some rust while assisting with some advance math (usually implemented on spreadsheets nowadays!) then took a nap. After lunch it was time to take a hike on the 3.5-mile loop trail; Tammy and Michael joined me for the opening mile to a petrified tree before turning back. I joined another hiker here and we climbed to the ridgetops, with a fine view of the John Day river, the camp and telescope field in the distance, and Tammy/Mike on the valley floor. Several pieces of nearby scenery were also impressive, with waving grass, mudstone slopes and mossy rocks captured in my camera. The loop ended right by the cabin where Tammy and Mike were staying, guarded by several small rabbits - one hid his/her face behind a shrb as I took a photo.

It was now dinnertime, and skies were looking mighty good! Another event was on the schedule of a fortunate few, however, as we gathered in my cabin for a feast of garlic in many forms, washed down by an undersized amount of my homemade stout. That interlude was most entertaining, and we stepped into twilight exhilirated and perhaps slightly aromatic. The field was more crowded, since several people chose to arrive Saturday rather than drive through the rain on the previous day. One cruel cloud hid Polaris for over a half-hour, and the space station buzzed the field twice before midnight. Once again, it seemed that skies were less ideal than they had appeared in daylight; faint objects had very little going for them unless they were straight up, a most awkward place for them with most telescopes! I therefore continued my Messier work, capturing plenty in the Ursa Major area (including my two M102 galaxies, 5866 and the more enticing 5907. By 2AM I was wearing down again, though, as I fought the low-contrast skies, so soon I headed for bed again.

Another breakfast awaited me in the morning, and then it was time for the 200-mile return drive. It was a much better day for driving, and the miles went swiftly - almost too swiftly, since I nearly forgot how low on fuel I was! Luckily Grass Valley was right where I needed it. By 1PM I was home again, and back at work on the telescope I had nearly finished in time for the party. Better luck next event!

Objects (too bad I didn't write this down..)
Messier 3-8,11,13,15-18,20,22,24,26,27,29,39,44,51,52,56,57,65,66,71,80-87,95-99,101-105,108,109 plus a couple others in the Virgo cluster. Let's call it fifty, plus maybe eight NGCs and Jupiter.