The 16th Annual Twin Lake Star Party
After crossing our state from North to South (500 miles and 9 1/2 hours later) I arrived at the site in the afternoon of the first day to be welcomed by a stunning amount of humidity during an 80-degree day. With plenty of time till dark, I put myself to the task of setting up the scope and camping gear, ending up soaking wet from the heat.
There was not much to see during the beginning of the week. This did not deter me from searching for objects in Cassiopeia and Camelopardalis and the surrounding constellations. Even though they were brighter than 9th magnitude, they were almost invisible to my scope due to the constant coming and going haze, heavy dew, and thin clouds.
During the daytime I roamed around the site and got the chance to see a wonderful forest with tall trees of maple, hickory, oak, walnut, etc. with thick brush filling the spaces. There were countless rocky cliffs and beautiful ravines. The place is a heaven for campers, hikers, hunters, and anglers alike. There is plenty of room for the "birders" too, where they can watch the Eastern Phoebe Bird Catcher, the Blue Bird Morning Dove, and the Yellow Throated Viseo. There were also members of the Owl family, the Barred Owl, Eastern Screech Owl and Great Horned Owl.
I kept searching for my agenda objects with no avail and so had to return to see the more obvious ones that I've seen so many times before. I browsed around through other people's scopes showing outstanding views of some globulars and nebulae, especially considering the hazy conditions. My next-door neighbor was Pierre Faucher, an astronomy pal whom I met for the first time last year at the Texas Star Party. He had his 24" Dobsonian with all the bells and whistles, out hunting for fuzzies. A skillful observer, he showed me NGC604, a Hydrogen Alpha Region Nebula in M33 that looked very clear in his behemoth. I struggled to see it through my 12.5", even though he kept on telling me where it was. This goes out to show you how good his eye was compared to mine. Amongst many other sky wonders I had the chance to see the Quasar Q003+158 or PHL658, magnitude 15.9, with a red shift of 0.45 and 4.166 billion light years away in the Constellation Cassiopeia.
During the impossible times during the night, movies came to the rescue. The organizing club had a projector in the park service quarters building, which rivaled some small town theaters. A cold front arrived during the middle of the week alleviating some of the misery we were having with the excessive humidity during the sunny days, but there was not much change during the night. It was evident to me that by Friday rain was due so I decided to break camp and pack-up to avoid having all my equipment wet, and what was worse, two more frustrating nights!
Regardless of the bad skies I experienced, I must say - I HAD A GOOD TIME. All the people I met as well as by those I already knew treated me royally. The courteous organizers went out of their way to make every one of us comfortable!
The registration was $30.00. This covered all the camping, all the electricity (in the building 60 feet away from camp) you'll ever need, as well as coffee and snacks 24 hours a day. And on top of all that - a free meal during the last Saturday. For all of this I've already considered this star party one of my favorites, and I am sure I will come back and visit it in the future.Published in the November 2005 issue of the NightTimes