First on-site star party - Boyes Hot Springs Sonoma

by Evan Garber

This summer, I have not had much time for anything, particularly observing or astrophotography as a local contractor became freed up and my wife and I committed at the last minute to remodel our home (ripping all of the inside walls the guest bathroom and kitchen). A temporary kitchen was constructed on the back porch complete with three burner propane stove, ice making fridge, etc. All of us, my two little ones, wife, myself are occupying our bedroom which is not part of this stage of the remodel.. Hopefully we will have our houase back by the end of November.

My wife and I broke the pledge we made at athe start of the job - to not do any entertaining - as the place was to much of a mess and a bit dangerous. Last Friday night, I had my first on site (back acre) star party for some thirty friends and neighbors including about fifteen kids (mostly very young kids) with the assistance of a local Sonoma friend who brought over his 5 inch refractor.

We had only three scopes - but this seemed to work as we planned the observing ahead of time. We set up one refractor (with the cheaper Meade eye pieces) so the little ones could get a first look at the moon and (much later) Mars. A second refractor was set up for the adults.. This went well and many had their first look through a scope. . It reminded me a bit of Shingletown public viewing night - except I knew the people I was speaking too. After ten about eight of us went down to my domed observatory which I had set up for photography and, after a couple of minor problems, I was able to shoot relatively bright objects (to save time) and show the viewers the process of amateur astrophotography. This was a big hit with the participants as they could all watch the objects come on screen together. Objects viewed included M27, M13 and other bright objects suitable for first time viewing.

I count the biggest success being the request of one of the participnats for me to purchase a 6 inch Dob for him and his son as he wished to start viewing at his home up north of Lake Sonoma. He is the manager of a large winery up there and his skies are great.

I am looking forwrd to Calstar and seeing TACo's once again.