OSP '96 notes

The 1996 Oregon Star Party was enjoyed by nearly 600 participants during the long weekend of August 15-18. In fact, the most difficult part of this year's OSP was the commute! With numerous large fires to the northeast, northwest and southwest of our site in the Ochoco Mountains, several major highways were threatened, and the main road from Portland closed several times during the week. Lightning strikes early in the week started more small fires, and the Forest Service was weary from the continuous action. Our group has always impressed them by sticking to their regulations, and we continued our own policing program with no hassles or problems from anyone at the party.

While the smoke raised the viewing horizon about 15, overhead viewing on Thursday was only slightly impaired. This year's observing program was enough for anyone to keep busy, with lists of comets, minor planets, moons and favorite deep-sky objects competing with Perseid-hunting for attendees' attention. The meteors were surprisingly sparse Thursday, with some improvement Friday. Daytime activities generally congregated around vendors and the ever-popular 'chuck-wagon' caterer and their fine food. In a break from past years, we ordered many extra shirts with our cluster-and-tree logo; sales were brisk to those who chose not to pre-order this year. Sadly, the tree that dominates our logo was cut down by vandals, but it lives on in our hearts and on our shirts! Friday night began with less smoke but more high clouds and a gloomy forecast. Few telescopes were in use that evening, but clearing around midnight soon brought out the crowds. The hum of electric motors announced the activation of the 41" telescope from the Spokane area, and it remained active until dawn. Other scopes of all sizes covered the high ground; only the CCD imagers were disappointed by the skies, which were very good but not perfect for imaging.

People awoke a bit later on Saturday but were active by the noon swap-meet, where telescopes and parts seldom stayed put for long. The day was nearly smoke-free but mostly cloudy until late afternoon, when door prizes were awarded under clearing skies. The grand prize of four Panoptic eyepieces was won by a member of the OSP committee whose life was in need of good cheer; everyone felt good that he was the lucky one. The skies cleared at sunset, but a chill wind followed before the end of twilight, sending everyone to their campsites for warmer outfits. The wind settled in for a long stay, spoiling the clear skies and smudging Jupiter and Saturn into wobbly streaks. Optimists stayed up past midnight, when the wind often winds down, but this time the waiting was in vain. At least the sleep came at a good time, so the drive home was less tiresome.