July has been an incredibly busy month for outreach! Many, many thanks to everyone who has volunteered for our June and July events thus far. We still have a few more events that are a bit bigger than can still use volunteers. If you haven't volunteered before, we'd love to have you! These star parties don't require expert levels of observing. If you can find a couple of your favorite objects in your telescope, that is all that is necessary to show to a very eager and enthusiastic public. And, there's the bonus of you get to do some observing in some relatively dark sites! If you are interested in helping out in any of the events below, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 13th (Saturday, 9pm -12am) - Star Trek and a Star Party - Stub Stewart Park - We are partnering with Hollywood Theater to show Wrath of Khan at Stub Stewart and then also have a star party for the audience afterwards. We are looking for 10 more volunteers with telescopes. I'm not sure what could be more fun that combining Star Trek with being under the stars!
July 13th (Saturday, 8:30pm - 10:30pm) - Portland Metro Star Party at Glendoveer Park- This is an annual event in which we partner with Portland Metro and Portland Audobon to provide a star party. We need 10 volunteers with telescopes.
July 20th (Saturday evening) - OMSI Star Party - Stub Stewart Park - This is one of OMSI's annual star parties, and it's on the anniversary of the Apollo landing. This is a busy weekend for OMSI. We have wonderful volunteers signed up already to help during the day, and then this star party is to end the celebration of the moon landing. OMSI needs at least 10-15 volunteers with telescopes.
July 20th (Saturday evening - Sunday morning) - Maryhill Museum Star Party - Each year, RCA partners with Maryhill Museum to provide a star party on their beautiful grounds. Volunteers will be able to camp overnight on the Museum grounds and will be treated to a lovely breakfast on Sunday morning. We are looking for 8 more volunteers with telescopes.
July 31st (Wednesday, 7pm - 10pm) - OMSI After Dark - This month's OMSI After Dark event is all things astronomy. We are looking for 5-6 people to do a virtual star party and tabling activities. Yes, virtual! Welcome to the future! A virtual star party is where you share view of the sky using your favorite astronomy app. We will also have lunar-based activities at a table setup. Since sunset is at 8:40 pm, there won't be a lot of opportunity for dark skies.
Thank you again to everyone who has volunteering and makes these outreach events possible. If you have any questions or would like to help out at one of these events, please email email@example.com
Artificial Satellite Constellations: A New Threat to Astronomy and Dark Skies? International Dark Sky Association (IDA) has gone on record opposing satellite clusters. An urgent response is needed before more clusters are launched. With many astronomers on break or otherwise tied up for the summer, help is being sought from amateur astronomers and astrophotographers. One thing you can do to help the effort to curb the proliferation of these clusters is to post time and location data and photos of the cluster to the RCA forum (I will start a thread for Starlink under the imaging SIG). I will get these photos to the active members of the committee assigned to respond to SpaceX. RCA and IDA will also conduct social media outreach using these images. If you are interested in assisting with modeling efforts, let me know and I will put you in touch with the appropriate team member. Stay tuned for more information.
By far, the most effective advocacy tool that IDA has found in its tool box is designating International Dark Sky Places (IDSP). As of June 2019, there are 122 IDSP’s world-wide totaling 22 million protected acres. Fifteen more IDSP’s are expected to be designated by the end of 2019. Because IDSP’s draw so much attention to dark sky issues as well as providing dark sky preservation, RCA’s Board has made helping to designate “Oregon’s First IDSP” one of its goals in the next two years. There are a few candidate sites where RCA has confirmed that the land managers are in favor of designation and where required studies in support of an application have either been initiated, nearly completed, or can be quickly conducted.
The Juniper Flats Fire Department, which protects our observing site at Maupin, is now requiring us to do what we do at Oregon Star Party: carry five gallons of water dedicated to fire suppression, a shovel and an ax. This is going to affect us when we use the Wapinitia Airfield (Maupin) for an RCA star party. The policy is based on regulations set forth by the Oregon Dept. of Forestry which are similar to the US Forest Service requirements enforced at OSP.
We don't expect our members to fight wildfires, but to use common sense and have the water and capabilities to be able to extinguish a very small spot fire before it gets out of control and becomes a safety hazard. More than once, we've actually used our five gallons and shovels and axes at OSP. Your goal will be to protect yourself long enough to get packed up and out of the area. Please find the attached flyer. As the rules change, we will update you.
This year, we will be hosting a series of star parties and classes for new observers. Whether you have just joined the club or have been a member for years, if you are ready to start your adventure observing, we are here to help! We will have two series this summer:
New Observer Star Parties - Do you have a telescope and are wanting to take it out to a star party, but need a little extra guidance? In our New Observer Star Parties, we will have mentors to help answer all your questions as your guide your telescope around the night sky. We will also have a "Kids with Scopes" section in which kids may also learn to observe on Orion Starblasts provided by RCA. Our first new observer star party will be on Saturday, July 6th, at Stub Stewart. If you are interested, please email Yara Green at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot. Space is limited. We are also looking for mentors for this event, so please let me know if you would like to help out by emailing email@example.com
New Observer Classes - In these classes, we will be providing telescopes to help you learn how to use a telescope and navigate the night sky. We will also go over star party etiquette as well as how to stay warm into the early morning hours. Dates for these are coming soon. If you would like to be on our email list for the new observer classes, please email Yara Green at firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the funniest Mad magazine comic strips I ever read was their explanation of how to keep score in bowling. Had me in stitches. I can’t help but think of the arrows and rule changes and exceptions and footnotes as I tackle the job of explaining the difference between our various star parties, locations and policies, especially for members who haven’t been here for the last couple of decades to watch our policies unfold. So, with all the confidence of Alfred E. Newman, here is an attempt to clear up some questions.
Public Star Parties
Public star parties are sponsored by OMSI. They are advertised to the public by OMSI and they aim for the non-observing public. They are meant to be family events for entertainment and education. Think kids and dogs. RCA members bring their own telescopes to these events without hope of getting any of their own observing done; we go only to serve and inform. OMSI events are held at Stub Stewart and most of the time at Rooster Rock State Parks, though occasionally there might be a change in location based on various contingencies. Be sure to watch for OMSI announcement by email to our membership or on the Forum. We have information on our website for folks who are attending their first star party here, and who are volunteering at a public star party here.
Club Star Parties
A club star party is for “members only,” though of course we allow and expect that members sometimes come with family members and/or guests. Club star parties are meant to be smaller events, quieter and more focused. Perhaps the word “party” is misleading; if you’re a true night sky nerd, then being out in the countryside under a dark canvas of sky with a telescope and a few friends is a party. We offer these events so members can get some serious observing done. We do not go with the intention of providing a program. We expect that everyone attending will have their own equipment and observing plan, and will have at least basic good manners when it comes to managing light on the observing field. We have information on our website for members attending one of our club star parties here and a general Code of Conduct for all RCA events here. One major difference between a public and a club star party is who provides the insurance. At RCA club parties, we do. Also, RCA club star parties are not advertised to the public or announced on Facebook.
Ditches at Maupin Airstrip Are an Important Water Management Tool
The owner of the property that we call Maupin, i.e. the Wapinitia Air Strip, is very clear that the newly dug ditches along his property cannot be driven in, on, or through by us or anyone else. The reason is that ditches are a water management tool. They drain water out of land that is marshy with snow melt. They also direct water runoff into a channeled flow, helping to mitigate flooding or roaring spring rivers. They also are an environmental protection tool. Water-logged land becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Draining the land helps to cut down on marshy mosquito marathons. Considering that we have experienced those mosquitoes ourselves, we should be glad to help keep the ditches in good repair. Please help us find ways to self-enforce our landowner’s request, or we are in danger of losing this location altogether.
An unseasonably late snowstorm was pummeling Geneva International Airport when I arrived in early April. I pulled my suitcase through snow, dusted off my knowledge of French from high school, and rode tram #18 to its endpoint, a stop simply labeled “CERN.”
I had traveled over 8,000 kilometers to one of the world’s foremost physics research facilities. The European Council for Nuclear Research—the French translation, Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, is the origin of its acronym—was founded in 1954. Perhaps most well known for the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson, the sprawling campus spanning two countries is justifiably famous.
Special thanks to Alison and her volunteers Roger and Merle for painting the parking curbs at Stub Stewart State Park. They present a tripping hazard that we have to warn everyone about every time we go out there, but with the new paint job, they should show up better even in the dark to help make things safer. Alison, I'm amazed at how quickly you got this done. First she was looking for volunteers, then it was done. Just like that. Love it, love you, love the bright white curbs!
At our April meeting, RCA charter member Jim Todd received the highest honor that our club bestows: the Galileo Award. Jim has been the Director of Space Science Education at OMSI for the past 35 years and was a key figure when our club was founded in the merger of two smaller clubs over 30 years ago. He provides our facilities at the museum, paying for us to use spaces at the museum from his own budget, which sometimes means venues such as the Empirical Theater when we need extra seating for special events. Aside from meeting rooms, such as the auditorium we’re currently in tonight, this includes storage space for our telescope and book libraries, our sales inventory, and other supplies. He cares so much about the club that he’s willing to risk tripping over all of that stuff while he’s working at his day job in the Planetarium. He even provides a mailbox for our official mail.
As if that wasn’t enough, Jim has also provided us with special programs, such as movies, planetarium shows, and special speakers, which has occasionally meant astronauts. As you will see a bit later tonight, he has always been ready and willing to fill in with a high-quality sky report whenever we have needed. He advocates and mediates for us with OMSI, championing our cause as the OMSI administration has changed over the years. He has advocated for us with city officials, such as the fire marshal, sometimes absorbing additional costs that we would otherwise have to pay. Jim has also gone out of his way to make our holiday events special, providing decorations, music, and presentations highlighting events important to the club or to the wider world. He is always flexible and works with us to meet special requests or when we need to adjust to unusual circumstances. Altogether, Jim has probably supported the club more than any other individual in ways both large and small and continues to be a very valuable and deeply appreciated member of the RCA family.
Jim’s generosity allows us to use our resources to reach more people and to provide more services to our members than would ever be possible otherwise. In return, we do our best to provide volunteers to help with official OMSI events, such as the OMSI star parties, Astronomy Day, the Makers’ Fairs, and significant events, like the Venus transit. But having the opportunity to participate in these events is yet another benefit for our members. Providing a kid’s first view of Saturn, Jupiter, or a globular cluster is a magical experience and sharing our passion for and knowledge of astronomy with other people is a lot of fun. If you haven’t volunteered yet, we strongly encourage it.
We owe a great deal to Jim and we would be a very different club without him!
Remarks by Vice-President of Programming, Mark Martin