Public or Private: What's the Best Star Party for You?

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President’s Paragraph: March 2017

There are two kinds of star parties on our calendar: public star parties promoted by OMSI and private club star parties for RCA members and guests only. Observing season is fast approaching, so let’s take a moment to refresh our memories about star parties and what we can expect at each of them.

Public Star Parties

Public star parties are all sponsored and promoted by OMSI. This year there are seven OMSI star parties, from March through September. OMSI public star parties are held at two locations on the same nights: Rooster Rock and Stub Stewart State Parks, for the convenience of both our Eastsiders and Westsiders. RCA provides support for these events by coming with our telescopes and sharing views with the public. Usually there are about 15 – 20 RCA telescopes and about 200 attendees at each site. This is an important part of our work as a non-profit organization. It’s part of our outreach to educate the public; it brings in new members; and it supports OSMI which does such a terrific job of supporting RCA. If you attend with your telescope, re

member to log your hours on our website as volunteer hours. Before volunteering for one of these events, please review the short list of Best Practices for Public Star Parties.

Private Star Parties

The private star parties are RCA club events. They can be found on our calendar and are publicized via our club communication to our members, but are not announced on Facebook or otherwise advertised to the public. The purpose of these events is to have smaller, quieter observing opportunities where members can accomplish their observing or imaging goals, but members are free to invite family and friends to come along. We have club star parties at both Rooster Rock and Stub Stewart State Parks, but never on the same night as an OMSI event or even as each other, so there are two club star party possibilities per new moon weekend. OMSI’s public star parties are scheduled either before or after new moon so that RCA can enjoy the new moon nights for our personal viewing.

We also offer observing events at Camp Hancock (twice a year) and at the Maupin remote observing site on Mt. Hood. These events are not volunteer events; they are simply an opportunity to get out under dark skies with fellow star people. Usually between 15 – 40 people with telescopes come to each site, and we always meet our 45 minimum registration at Camp Hancock. Before you attend one of the club star parties, please review the Members and Guests Star Parties Best Practices list.

Stub Stewart’s observing location has become a popular place for RCA members to go observing even on nights that there are no scheduled events. We hope that our members maintain an awareness of good observing practices even when we are not officially “on duty” with the public. Please observe our Code of Conduct so everyone has both a good time and a safe time.

Have a great 2017 astronomical year, everyone! If all goes well, I’ll see you on the observing field.

Margaret McCrea