The Oregon Star Party. What in the heck is that? Yeah, that's what I said as well when my friend Todd pitched the idea to us. "The Oregon Star Party: A bunch of people camping and nerding out on astronomy with a ridiculous number of telescopes and cameras under some of the darkest night skies in the US". Yes! Sign me up for that!
I've long been an aspiring amateur astronomer. I can't count the number of freezing cold nights I've endured just to be out there observing the universe. Few things are as awe inspiring as a dark night sky. My passionate interest in philosophy and science can probably be traced back to all those nights spent under the stars just thinking and wondering about the complexities of our universe.
An infinitely complex system will always present more questions than answers, but each of us will slowly stumble upon some answers one by one. One of those important answers is that most of the fun and engagement comes from the process of learning and discovering. What better place to learn and discover than in a huge field of sage brush and dirt in the middle of nowhere!
The OSP brings out a truly impressive number of knowledgeable and dedicated amateur and professional astronomers. The really wonderful thing about OSP is that all of these people are totally stoked to share a view through their telescope or pass on a bit of information. Everyone who attended was unabashedly nerdy about everything from trying to photograph spiral galaxies to discussing climate modeling computer software. But the important thing was that we were all nerding out together.
I actually hesitate to label such events and things as "nerdy". While we should not take ourselves too seriously, there is real value in claiming the high ground that science, philosophy and the pursuit of knowledge are very noble affairs. There is quite a refreshing and exciting feeling in the air when a group of people gets together at an event like OSP, where everyone is free to question anything and everything, and learn from it.
These are the kind of events that will fuel the future, where learning and thinking are celebrated and dogma and prejudice are unheard of. The look and feel of these events will certainly change going forward, as they rightfully should, but the heart and spirit will remain the same- to encourage and foster the inquisitive souls among us to learn and grow and be the best that they can be by using the age-old method of observing the universe around them.
|Much humor was in attendance as well. Our neighbors displayed a friendly greeting for those rare "long distance visitors" should they land.|
|The daytime scene looked very much like a Mars landing. Red dirt and shiny foil covered up almost everything in sight.|
|Every night we were treated to a flyover of the International Space Station. The timing of the flyover created an impressive sight from reflected sunlight. A 15 second exposure shows how bright she looked.|
|Star trails over my friend Todd's 3 telescopes. Goliath (L) a 10" Newtonian. The imaging scope (C) a 480mm triplet. Tank (R) a 6" refractor.|
|Star trails around Polaris with an incredibly bright and hot Perseid meteor photo bomb.|
|Cloudy star trails around Polaris. Look closely and you will notice each trail is broken up from the clouds passing overhead as the image was being exposed.|
|A few of us has the distinct pleasure of attending a workshop by Ben Canales, of Uncage The Soul. Ben gave us some instruction in the field as well as an informative and inspiring lecture.|
|The icing on the cake for those of us who were up to witness it was to see the Aurora Borealis. A curtain of forest fire smoke dulled the show a bit, but it was still spectacular to see it!|