I recently spent a week in Chiefland Florida at the annual Chiefland Fall Star Party. I have mixed feelings about the week. On the one hand, the weather was as bad as it could be for a star party. It was overcast every single night, and by overcast, I don’t mean just not good enough for imaging, I mean you couldn’t even find the moon, much less hope to get a good alignment or TPoint run.
On the other hand it’s hard to go wrong being surrounded by 100 other amateur astronomers. All the Chiefland residents were there, and some heavy hitting astro imagers to swap tips and war stories with, and I met some old friends and made some new ones. They had a good line up of speakers, and I gave two talks myself. Manning the “booth” was a bit slow, but I did my “job” as a Bisque representative and answered a lot of questions about the Paramounts, how to use our software, etc.
On a personal level, all I wanted to do was image! I had two Paramounts, a modified DSLR, a CCD, and two really great astrographs. In addition to my Veloce, I had an 11″ Celestron Edge HD on loan from Celestron that I was going to try out for the first time. I’ll reserve a review of this instrument though until I can spend some more time with it.
The last night of the star party, there were some substantial sucker holes and for the first time all week we saw starlight. In the late afternoon, I even managed to snap a quick picture of the moon as it flitted between clouds. My hopes where dashed when not that long after dark, the clouds just closed up for the night. I was just sick with frustration and went to my hotel room thinking that I was done for. The staff decided to leave the field powered up an extra couple of nights for anyone who wanted to stay an extra night. At first I thought I would take advantage of this, but then Saturday night it looked hopeless. Sunday morning though, the skies were as clear and blue as could be, and I just could not tear down and go home empty handed.
Sunday night was wonderful. It turns out I was the sole survivor of the star party and had the field to myself. I bagged the Sculptor Galaxy as soon as twilight passed, even with a ever growing moon still hanging in the sky. I also got an M78, and some horsehead data. The Celestron Edge HD was to be targeted on M74 all night long, but fighting the dew was a loosing battle. While my dew heaters could keep the water at bay on my 8″ Veloce, the 11″ corrector plate on the Celestron proved to be too much real estate. I ended up with a donut of moisture that made imaging impossible. I fought the dew off with a hair dryer, but it turned into a cycle that I could not keep up with all night long (must sleep at some point).
Despite the bad luck weather wise it was still a great week, and I think the Chiefland star party is a keeper. Until next year!