Last year I attended the Grand Canyon Star Party on the South Rim. Nearly a hundred amateur telescopes were setup and thousands of visitors were treated to their first time ever view through a telescope. Many had never even seen a starry night, much less the Milky Way. It was amazing. It was spiritual. I showed a lot of people galaxies far far away using our imaging tools.
I've returned this year, but to an expanded agenda. I spent the first two nights across the canyon on the North Rim where a sister event is held (two actually). I knew these were smaller events, but the elevation is higher (over 8,000 feet) and I wanted to see the Milky Way rising over the canyon. Plus, I'm here, I might as well investigate all the events going on. The events in the park are geared towards the general public and outreach, and I am joined by a few others doing "video astronomy", however I'm actually doing live stacking with TheSkyX Pro and a Raspberry Pi/iPad combo.
Due to a misunderstanding with my contact, I was not properly RSVP'd for the North Rim event (which may not be possible anyway it seems), as they setup their scopes on a small patio on the North Rim Lodge, and there is very little room for a large number of telescopes. When I arrived on Monday, I found there were only about ten telescopes setup (the maximum number allowed), but with a wonderful view across the canyon. I was also told that setting up "unauthorized scopes" away from the event was not allowed for the North Rim, even though on the South Rim this is permitted. "They are really two different events".
Well then. Nightscapes?
Before arriving though, I was put in contact with another group that proudly calls themselves the "North Rim Rejects". They meet outside the park in the Kiabab National Park, and I was invited to join them and even give a presentation on astrophotography. Monday I did so and met many of them there, one of whom is a long time Paramount owner who recognized me from other events as soon as I arrived. I didn't stay that night however (I was worn out from traveling) and returned to the North Rim Lodge to at least visit the North Rim group, and do some nightscape photography before going to bed a little earlier than I might otherwise with a mount setup. They were pretty busy and I hovered incognito and took some pictures. There was some nice gear on hand, and lots of "oohs" and "ahs" as many people took their first look at Jupiter or Saturn. The Milky Way over the Canyon was of course glorious beyond compare. You can really tell when you're in a visual crowd. Lots of green lasers! Between the green lasers and the airplanes (who needs SpaceX satellites!) I had to be pretty patient to get a DSLR image across the canyon.
Tuesday I returned to the Kiabab group, and met some more people but the forecast was for clouds and I returned to the North Rim Lodge as it was getting dark. It turns out it did clear up for a good part of the sky much later, and I spent some time observing through the telescopes setup there through sucker holes, and talking with the astronomers in the dark. Casually chatting in the dark with someone I noticed his fine refractor and the view. "Are you an astronomer?", he asked...it's not hard to tell after all...."Yes", I replied. I told him I'd even brought a scope and had originally hoped to setup with them, but maybe next year I'd get on the list earlier. "Well...", he said, "The National Park Service has a pretty rigorous vetting program for who they let setup on this side." Ah, I see. Little space, lots of competition. Next year I'll stick to the South Rim where they let all the riff raff in. - LOL. Another gentleman, Daniel, with an 18-inch Dob was my favorite host and we both shared a love for globular clusters, and did a bit of chasing down clear patches. He also caught on pretty quick that I was familiar with a Dob, and I confessed that I had a 14-inch Dob of my own.
For the rest of the week, I'm on the South Rim where there are several dozens of scopes setup, and several thousands of visitors coming though. Last night was BUSY and the skies were amazing. Live stacking under a dark sky at this elevation is simply not fair! It's like shooting fish in a barrel!
I'll have much more to report on the South Rim adventure later, possibly not until I get home.
Poor me, I had to drive out of the park and find a Starbucks to write this... I'm such a team player ;-)
06-27-2019 3:26 PM