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