You know you are rusty at camping when the list of things you forgot, which you are just now remembering in your head as you are driving away from home, gets long enough that you actually turn around. It has been at least 5 years since I was last camping, and that definitely showed in how I packed the car to head out to the Catskills for the AOS starfest.
I learned a number of things about the experience. First, a critical list of Astronomy gear I don’t have. This includes a weatherproof scope cover, a 12v hair dryer (for dew elimination), and a portable deep cell battery for said hair dryer. Being the odd one out I had to keep shuffling my scope back and forth between cover and not as we were dodging the storms that rolled through.
I also learned that most amateur astronomers are not campers. We had at least a couple of inches of rain up there this weekend, and only a few tents stayed dry. Rookie mistakes about how to setup the ground cloth were prevalent. It’s understandable as camping is a means to an ends (being where the skies are dark), but I was surprised that more people hadn’t experienced this enough times to still be caught by that. I tried to be helpful where I could, but didn’t want to impose too much, being one of the new guys there.
I learned that I don’t need to be too envious about other people’s scopes. Even though my 8″ dob put me on the smaller size up there, I’m just very comfortable with the scope now. I know exactly where to put my eye, how to tweak the focus, and with my astronomy chair can really relax with my views in the scope. There are clearly things I can’t dial in that Rudy and Rick could get in their 18 and 13 inch scopes, but for all around usability, I’m just really happy with this scope. I saw the veil nebula in my scope via an O-III filter (which is the only high contrast one that I’ve got for viewing Orion), and realized there is a whole other set of things I can see in that scope with a dark site and some additional filters. I’m definitely going to have to invest in those.
And lastly, I learned, the 3am sky is a different sky than I’d ever seen before. Once civilization has gone to sleep things get darker yet again, as no place on the east coast is immune to at least a little light pollution. I doubt the site we were at was much darker than my parents place in VT, but I realized I’ve never gone looking for stars after midnight. With my new found dew management knowledge, I’m really looking forward to my next venture up there.
Even though we only got 1/2 a night of observing in (Saturday/Sunday after 1am it started to clear out), I had a really good time with some great people this weekend.
Looking forward to doing more of this in the future.