The RCA general meeting of May 20th will be our annual Astronomy Day Fair and Swap Meet, in the OMSI auditorium where we usually met. Sellers who want a space at a table in the Swap Meet area (the center of the auditorium), please let me know before April 25 at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know if you need a full table, or can use a half table to share with another seller. Also, please include your contact information.
Set up will begin at 5:30 p.m., no exceptions. Remember that the load/unload area in front of OMSI allows only 15-minute parking. After that you are blocking a city fire lane and could get a ticket. Also, parking will be tight that night because there will be another event going on at OMSI that same night. Finally, there is no electrical service to the Swap Meet area and OMSI will not permit stretching a cord across the room, even taped down. Especially taped down
RCA will have several tables around the perimeter of the Auditorium and the Swap Meet tables and chairs will be set up in the middle. Right now there are twelve tables for a total of 24 spaces. If we need more, we can rearrange the tables to get more spaces. There will also be at least two tables out in the lobby area reserved for our vendors. Sunriver will, as usual, be in the lobby outside the main door to the Auditorium.
RCA will also have its own tables along the back wall for Sales, Membership and Book Library, as usual. We will NOT have New Member Orientation that night. RCA will have workshops in Classroom One and shows in the planetarium, but we will have no workshops or presentations in the Auditorium, for noise reasons. However, there will be a Kids with Scopes area between the Swap Meet area and the Main Stage.
If you contact me by April 25, I will assign you a space and put your name on it. If you contact me after April 25, you will have to use one of the "extra" tables I plan to have on hand, if I can find room for them.
RCA launches campaign to identify Oregon’s first International Dark Sky Place
Last month RCA initiated its campaign to help designate Oregon’s first International Dark Sky Place (IDSP). Such places are certified under a program developed by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), the only organization solely dedicated to protecting night skies for present and future generations. About a dozen RCA members volunteered to support this effort. This is a big effort and one that will require sustained support from many other people across the state. Getting the word out that “dark skies matter” and fending off the trend of brighter and more pervasive outdoor lighting is no easy feat. Drum roll….statewide citizen support may be just around the corner!
Oregon chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association is forming
IDA is working with active IDA members in several states to help them form statewide IDA “chapters.” Oregon is one of those states. Bend, OR has a few active IDA members who are carrying the gauntlet on this new IDA chapter formation. With the establishment of an Oregon Chapter, IDA members in Oregon can coordinate and pool their efforts, and tax-free donations will come directly to IDA Oregon to support projects in Oregon. A “boot-strap committee” of Oregon IDA members is working with IDA staff to make chapter formation a reality. Two RCA members, Dawn Nilson and Mike McKeag, are on that committee. If you are an IDA member/donor, you will soon be receiving a letter of invitation to participate in this new chapter. If you aren’t an IDA member, join now during International Dark Sky Week which runs from March 31 – April 7. If you can’t contribute time, you can contribute tax-free dollars to support the work of the Oregon Chapter. Collaboration is mounting and you can be part of it.
Early encounters with astronomy inspire a lifetime of interest. The Young Astronomer Awards Program promotes high school-age student participation in astronomy-related projects by offering financial awards, for approved and completed projects, ranging from $100 to $250 for projects of varying scope and significance.
Application Deadline is April 1, 2019
High school students in the Portland, Oregon metro area are encouraged to apply to either the Spring or Fall cycle of the awards program by submitting a project proposal via RCA’s online application. Once the proposal is approved by RCA, students have approximately 60 days to complete and submit their final project to RCA for judging. Students consider their talents and interests in astronomy and submit a proposal in one of the following categories:
Astronomy Arts & Literature
Astronomy Outreach & Advocacy
Club members can help promote this fun and worthwhile program by sharing with family, friends, school teachers and others. A full description of the Young Astronomer Awards Program, including guidelines, deadlines, and application can be found here.
Please join our team of Astronomy Dark-Sky Enthusiasts to help RCA build a coalition to designate Oregon's first ever International Darksky Place. Designating an International Darksky Place in Oregon will not only provide necessary leverage to bring more attention to darksky preservation, but will generate economic growth through astrotourism.
Our team will be identifying potential communities and locations that meet our darksky site objectives, and inviting communities and land agencies to consider designation. And there will be much more to this fascinating campaign in what is usually, on average, a three-year effort.
We are aiming to have folks from Portland Audubon Society, Oregon Wilderness Society, and other astronomy clubs and darksky advocates in Oregon as part of our team. We hope to have Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as allies, and ideally coalition partners.
I recently received a request for help from a Portlander asking for what to do, what to bring, and where to go for a first-ever experience of a dark sky — in Central Idaho! She had heard about Central Idaho being designated an International Darksky Reserve and thought it would be a great idea for a vacation. Little did she know what great dark skies we have here in Oregon, and that they too are at risk from light pollution. Though Idaho is a great place, with your help we can put Oregon on the map as a dark sky vacation destination!
Wildfires have been increasingly figuring into our planning for our summer observing. If you plan to get outdoors to observe under our great Pacific Northwest skies this season, please read these preparedness suggestions:
We need to stop thinking of wildfires as abnormal and start planning our summer observing as if we could very well encounter wildfires, or have skies filled with smoke, or have to cancel events for fires.
We have to watch the fire forecast as carefully as we watch the weather forecast. I’ve asked Matt Vartanian, our new VP of Observing, to include fire watch in his forecasts for star parties, even early in the season, just to get in the habit of it.
We have to create safety practices at star parties in preparation for the event of a fire. At Camp Hancock, we park our vehicles facing the exit so we can get out quickly in case of fire. RCA should make this a requirement also. It has the added benefit of turning each car’s headlights away from the observing field.
At Oregon Star Party, we are required to carry five gallons of water dedicated to fire-fighting, and a shovel. We’ve been asked by Eugene Walters, who owns the property at our Maupin site, to require every attendee to have a five-gallon empty plastic buck filled with old blue jeans and enough water to keep them damp, with a lid so they don’t spill in the backs of our cars. In the event of fire, we would put the damp clothes on the grass around our observing site to dampen down the spread of fire, and leave. Eugene said the old-fashioned technique was to use wet gunny sacks. But no one knows what gunny sacks are anymore. I have already assured Eugene we can do this. It’s a small ask to protect his property and to protect ourselves.
We probably will have to develop ways to keep an eye on the wildfire situation on any weekend we’re observing in Oregon Outback. This means that those who have internet connections on site may have to have a fire watch program running in the background.
We must practice fire safety in the drylands where we camp. This means no smoking and no campfires where fire danger is high. This is not one of those “oh well, everyone’s getting too fussy” requirements. If we’re asked not to smoke outdoors, we don’t.
There may come a day when we really do need to leave a place quickly to get to safety. It may even mean having to leave all our beautiful, dearly beloved and expensive equipment behind. But the fires have become more numerous, bigger and faster than they have ever been in the past, and until we as a society invest the time and effort to restore our forest and grassland environments, fires will probably continue on this growth curve.
I sincerely hope that if we are careful and proactive, we can continue to have many more years of wonderful observing. But given that wildfire season has stretched into early spring and late fall, we may have to start expanding our thinking to include our hobby as a winter-time sport. So those clear cold nights in February up at Stub Stewart State Park are looking better all the time. So are nights in our backyards, or online telescope services. We will find a way.
With the arrival of Winter and the New Year, our prime season for maintenance and cleanup is upon us. After examining our patterns and preferences for borrowing over the past year, I am making some decisions about reorganizing the collection a bit. In order to free up space at both of our storage locations, telescopes that have not loaned out over this past year will be removed to another location. They will still be available for reservation, but on a somewhat different basis.
Telescopes that are in this category will be removed from the main list you see on the website today, and moved to a new section, below the main collection. You will still be able to reserve them, but what happens between the time you reserve and the time you pick up and return the telescope will be a little different. In essence, we will decide, together, where the telescope will be loaned, and where it will be returned, and how long each loan will be.
Are you interested in volunteering for the Telescope Library? We have several important new positions available.
The Library needs at least one experienced observer for a newly created “Eyepiece Curator” position. We have over 350 eyepieces in our collection and a number of “spares” that can be used for a variety of applications. Some of the eyepieces included with telescope are not well-matched, but more urgent matters have precluded dealing with this problem until now.
Our collection needs a fresh look at eyepieces allocated to telescope packages; our goal is improving this across the collection. This will include modification of our pool of spares, and proposals for the acquisition of new eyepiece sets, as well as liquidation of others.
We will start by gathering any information we are lacking about the telescopes and eyepieces we have, examine it, and recommend equipment moves. (We are open to having multiple curators working together on this effort.)
Designated Review Observers
We are looking for experienced observers to come forward for our “Designated Review Observer” program to test and review telescopes new to the collection (and eventually move on to every telescope we have). This position can be held by multiple individuals who will take telescopes from the library, use them for observation, and (at least) takes notes on how the telescopes perform. We can work these notes into a review, for these pages, and any special notes about the telescope can be included with the package, so future borrowers can be more informed about the telescope they have borrowed. Flaws will be dealt with, raising overall quality of telescope being borrowed.
The Telescope Library is powered by volunteers, who have done excellent work (certainly worthy of a future article, maybe more) and provide the skills and talent it takes to operate the library keeping our collection in working order. If you think any of these positions is a good fit for you, please contact me: Bob Brown, Telescope Librarian.
We have more star parties scheduled in 2019 than we’ve ever had before in one year. Two of them are in a semi-new location: White River Sno-Park, which we haven’t visited for years. View our complete downloadable, printable star party schedule.
What Else in 2019?
We’ve got a new contract with Haggart Observatory which will be reopening this spring. We’ve got a more solid relationship with International Dark Sky Association. We’ve got several star parties for new members lined up. We expect to hand out at least one more Master Observer Award from Astronomical League. We have an ever-greater reach with Facebook and social media, as well as increasing visits to our website. We’re doing more with local clubs like Friends of Galileo, and everything we normally do is bigger and better: Telescope Library, Telescope Workshop, Astro-Imaging SIG and class, Outreach Events, and Youth Scholarships.
So to keep it short and sweet, we’re looking forward to another great year in RCA and we expect to continue to grow in both membership and impact. Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s hope for a full calendar of clear skies and bright stars.
We are pleased to announce that 2 additional pairs of binoculars have been obtained, in response to borrower demand. The new binoculars are 20x80's, made by Orion. We had one pair of these, and they have been very popular. Now, we have 3 of them. The binoculars are paired with Orion "extra heavy-duty" tripods. These are heavier than the Orion tripods we have now, and should provide solid support for these large binoculars, better than the Orion field tripods we have for our other binoculars.