Sunday, October 22, 2006



Why what? Why did I set out for a star party under beautiful, crisp fall skies; arrive at a star party under beautiful, crisp fall skies; set up the good, ol’ C8 under beautiful, crisp fall skies; and wind up with sunset weather like that shown in the lower picture? What kind of weather, you ask? In case you can’t tell from the image, that’s torrential rain. Severe thunderstorm warnings. Tornado watches. The change shown in these two photos happened in the course of about two hours.

That, in a nutshell, is what happened to me this past weekend at the just ended Deep South Regional Star Gaze (Louisiana). I had high hopes for this one, too. After a summer and early fall of just about no observing (well, one really good night last month), I figured I’d hit the jackpot given the weather conditions and forecasts as Dorothy and I departed Mobile. Nope. Sorry. Fuhgeddaboutit.

Why am I telling you this? Partially to vent. I go to a lot of star parties every year, but I still look forward to each and every one. I get my hopes built up, and when things don’t quite work out the way I’d planned and dreamed and hoped, sure I’m a little bummed. This one, the DSRSG, is my “home” star party too. I’ve been every year for the last fifteen years, and it’s also the first star party Miss Dorothy and I attended together shortly after we were married. It’s special and I want it to be perfect in every way (which it was last year).

Another reason I’m talking about a “failed” star party (five hours of viewing out of four days, good buddy) is to remind you, as I noted some time back, that there’s a hell of a lot more to a star party than “just” observing. I had a fantastic time at this year's DSRSG. I would have had a fantastic time even if I hadn’t been able to get in those five good hours. I saw (and annoyed) a lot of old friends, drank a lot (ahem) of Rebel Yell, and drooled over a passel of downright cool door prizes (didn’t win any, natch). I had fun giving my “Urban Astronomy” presentation, and I had a great time sitting in the chow hall with my bubbas as the rain came down watching 2001: A Space Odyssey (DVD equipped laptops and PowerPoint LCD projectors are the savior of many a clouded-out star party these days). Yeah, Rod’s Yell-induced running commentary on “Stanley Kubrick as auteur” probably annoyed a few folks, but at least they were too polite to say so.

A final reason for making note of my semi-rained out 2006 DSRSG? To caution you. El Nino is back, I hear. What does that mean? Persactly? Go ask a derned weatherman. In general terms, though, I gather it means a wet fall and winter for us down here. Prob’ly for y’all too, wherever you are in the States. If El Nino continues on for another year, as it probably will, expect a cloudy spring, too. That’s been my experience since this El Nino business materialized (seemingly) suddenly about eight years back.

So what? So... Look forward to your star parties, local, regional, and national. Mark the days off on your calendar. Pack scopes into car and drive for that wonderful field like a madman or madwoman. Just don’t get the idea you might actually see anything. Do expect to have a great time, though, no matter what. Dern shore don't forget the Rebel Yell (or that SISSY WHISKY you drink). You may find a bottle or three more “useful” than Naglers as you and your mates sit under an EZ-Up on a rainy field and talk the current state of amateur astronomy and WEATHER--while doin’ exactly nothin’ about either, of course.

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