OSP 2005: Under New Management

The 2005 Oregon Star Party marked its eighteenth year with its first-ever change in Director. While Chuck and Judy remain committed to the event they passed the Director's mantle on to Larry this year, who accepted with the knowledge that the many other volunteers make the Party happen regardless of who is "in charge" - and he proved correct as the event went very smoothly under his supervision.

Many others made it to the event far sooner than I, and supposedly both Tuesday and Wednesday nights were good ones. I was waiting for my friend Lórien to reach Portland before departing with her, and since she could not reach there before Wednesday evening that meant Thursday was our travel day. In fact it was rather late in the afternoon before we reached the site (same location since 1992), where Lórien's parents had already staked out our site (and in fact erected our tent!), so by evening we were fully dressed for the conditions - typical for 5000 feet on September first - and armed with warm caffeine headed for the stars!

Thursday night was a good one at times but never uniformly great; many 'gazers wrote it off, in fact. It was not as bad as all that though, and Lórien and I stayed up until 3AM seeing the sights. Before doing my own thing, I moved to the area for volunteers to act as mentors to adult OSP participants (the younger set had a similar setup on site). I met Sue and Steve and talked with them for an hour, showing them a few things with their nice 12-inch telescope and suggesting acquisitions for improving their skywathing plelasure. I then returned to my telescope and caught a few of the usual summer suspects (including a slow, lingering tour of the Veil) before trying something new. For reasons not clear to me I had never seen ngc6905, a fairly prominent planetary in Delphinus; in short order I swept it up and enjoyed the view of the round glow and its central star. I then sought out adjacent planetaries, but conditions worsened as I worked, and after several attempts I gave up and viewed elsewhere. I soon learned that, once again, my finder-charts for minor planets were insufficiently detailed to capture the objects - and since I'm pretty certain I had seen these particular ones before I moved on. A couple of glances at Mars showed several dark markings, but not sufficient to pin down details without a chart. By 2:30 the caffeine and internal heat-source both began to fail, and we shut down for the night.

Friday is now swap-meet day, so early on I brought a few things to be rid of; as usual, the event began well before its posted time. When confronted with circumstances, onsite director Lars accepted the fact that nothing can really be done to constrain the buyers and sellers, and for his own sanity chose to go with the flow. After a few swaps I began to do my duties as doorprize coordinator by gathering up prizes brought by other committee members and talking to our on-site vendors about their contributions. I took the nearly-obligatory shower and again visited with Sue and Steve for a while, then went to my laptop and began organizing the door-prizes into groupings to keep the process moving along; our raffle needed to be done in under an hour to keep patrons from missing out on dinner, and donors had been generous again in 2005. Skies were mostly cloudy by late afternoon, but this was nothing new; by sunset many parts of the sky were essentially clear, and views of Venus and Jupiter low in the southwest were decent (not in instruments, though, where the atmosphere conspired to refract the disks into messy color-rimmed blobs). Many people later commented favorably on the Friday skies, but I felt them to be poor on transparency - the black sky was too milky for my satisfaction. Lórien and I bravely worked on different objects, but I was getting frustrated and not finding things where I expected them. I could not even recover 6905 without trouble, most exasperating 24 hours after finding it swiftly! We went to the mocha-shed then visited others at their 'scopes, spending an hour or so away from our instruments. When we returned my frustration resumed, and we decided to knock off close to midnight. The dawn skies revealed plenty of high cirrus cloud, suggesting that my impressions may have been correct about transparency.

Saturday was my turn in the spotlight, as the door-prizes would be handed out at 3:15. By 1PM I was still not certain as to what prizes were forthcoming from a few of the vendors, so my list would remain volatile for a while! In the meantime I took another shower and just missed the rover races. At last, though, I had everything I needed, and with the help of several assistants the process went very smoothly. Once again I was given high marks for both pace and humor, so it seems that my part played out well. On the other hand, the sky was closing in on threatening: Lórien and I took a pre-sunset walk and each felt a single drop of rain. Nothing more developed though, and we returned just as Lórien's parents were finished packing - poor skies and a long drive suggested they head out that evening. We watched the skies for a while and found conditions stable, which meant bad and not improving.. so we skipped the espresso and went to bed before 9:00.

Sunday was for packing and cleaning up the site; Lórien and I took the long northward drive home, even stopping for fine views of the Painted Hills before reaching Portland after dark. It was by far the slow way, but Lórien enjoyed her first view of the scenery and it was only my second visit. Of course, those who stayed Sunday night would later rave about the skies.. that's pretty much traditional!

Although skies were occasionally uncooperative this year, our OSP memories will be good ones. Next year's event will be 24-27 August 2006; perhaps we'll see you there!