2007 Indiana Family Star Party

I arrived at the Indiana Family Star Party on Friday after about a two hour drive, the last 30-40 minutes consisting of scenic rural roads.  The day was warm, and the sun was high and hot, but most importantly, the sky was fairly blue and full of fair-weather cumulus clouds.  It promised to be clear that night with moderate humidity.

I found my friends, parked my car, and talked with friends that I hadn't seen for nearly a year.  Here in Illinois, "star party season" is August through October, when the chances for clear skies are greatest.  Winter observing can be an unpleasant experience here in the prairie (especially if the wind is blowing), spring can bring anything from blizzards to tornadoes, and summer is just plain hot.  So, most of our events have been scheduled for late summer and early fall, and we don't see a lot of our friends until the next season comes around.  IFSP was my first star party of the year.

The telescope field was quite full, but fortunately our perennial star party friend Lou had saved a space for me.  Below is a 180-degree panorama of our end of the observing field.  It's not perfectly stitched, but it conveys the scene.

Field Panorama

Another view of the observing field, from the north, is shown below.  As you can see, the place was fairly full!

Telescope field from the north

The location of this star party is Camp Collum, in a rural area northwest of Indianapolis.  The camp features an air conditioned building called the Nature Center, which has restrooms, a large meeting room where the talks were held, an area to exhibit astrophotos and telescopes, and other offices.  A photo of the building is shown below.
Nature Center building

Friday night proved quite good, with good transparency overhead and good seeing that allowed excellent views of Jupiter to be had early in the evening through my 16" F/4 Newtonian.  The site is fairly dark, with good skies from southern to northern horizon, but light pollution domes to the east and west-northwest.  It would be even better on a drier night.  I turned in after a quick look at Mars around 3am.

Saturday was hotter than Friday.  I stayed in the shade as much as possible, and attended the talks in the air-conditioned Nature Center before giving my own talk about Bob Holmes' 32" telescope at 4pm.  Awards were presented and door prizes drawn, and then the 28" mirror for the observatory's large dob was cleaned with collodion.  A crowd gathered as the substance was poured on the mirror, cheese cloth was imbedded in it, and another layer poured over that.  Photos of the cleaning and crowd are shown below.

Mirror cleaning Mirror cleaning
Mirror cleaning crowd

After some drying time, the results of the cleaning are shown below.  Not all of the collodion came off with the rest, and it was necessary to remove the remaining bits very carefully.  All in all, this particular cleaning attempt was not very successful.

Mirror not quite clean

After the crowd dispersed, we ate dinner and darkness began to fall.  I snapped some images of the Prairie Grass Observatory and stitched them as best I could into the panorama shown below.  Again, it's not perfect, but it shows the lay of the land.  The 28" scope with a "cleaned" mirror is priminently featured in the right side of the image.  A 16" Newtonian resides in the roll-off observatory at center (where people are gathered), a 16" SCT lives in the roll-off to its left, and a 7" refractor is in the dome.
Observatory grounds

Finally, I got a few good pictures of Lou with his 12" scope below at left, and John talking to observatory guests in the dome with the 7" refractor.

Lou John

All in all, IFSP 2007 was a lot of fun, though quite hot.  The facilities at Camp Collum are quite nice, and the air conditioning saved many on a very hot Saturday afternoon.  The volunteers running the event did a great job, and they deserve our thanks and appreciation for making the event run smoothly.

As it got dark, I had to leave around 10pm Saturday night because I had to get up early Sunday morning to leave for a work trip.  I had no hand in deciding this, someone else scheduled it without asking me.  But, I still had a great time, and I will return again next year if my schedule permits.

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