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A star party to remember

Amateur astronomers from across the country met for the 2006 Oregon Star Party.
OSP telescope field
Campers and equipment rimmed the 2006 OSP's three telescope fields.
Laura Baird
August 31, 2006
Some 700 amateur astronomers gathered this past weekend for the annual Oregon Star Party (OSP). Held in the Ochoco National Forest east of Prineville, Oregon, this star party boasts excellent seeing from an elevation of 5,000 feet.

Attendees camped in RVs or tents spread across 40 acres of prairie ringed by trees. Despite the isolated site, attendees enjoyed amenities like showers in a specially equipped 18-wheel truck, hot meals from the "chuck wagon," plus espresso drinks and ice-cream bars. A satellite hookup and on-site computers provided access to the Internet.
OSP site
The site for the Oregon Star Party (OSP) lies within the Ochoco National Forest and covers some 40 acres. The 2006 OSP had nearly 700 registrants.
Laura Baird
Smoke from nearby forest fires clouded the daytime view but cleared away by nightfall. The three telescope fields came alive at dusk with observers readying equipment. Many observers completed the OSP Observing Award Program to earn a certificate. The program offered three levels: Level One, the OSP Showcase; Level Two, Oregon Sky 25; and Level Three, Dim and Dimmer.
OSP vendors
A dozen vendors attended the 2006 OSP and offered everything from telescopes to pottery to T-shirts.
Laura Baird
A full roster of activities kept kids and adults busy during the day. On Thursday, the U.S. Forest Service led a tour about the area's geology and forest management. On Friday, the highlight was the "walkabout," when volunteers showed off their uniquely designed telescopes. On Saturday, kids competed in the annual Mars rover race. Throughout the weekend, a dozen vendors sold everything from scopes and accessories to celestial-themed jewelry and pottery. Astronomy Associate Editor Laura Baird attended and distributed magazines.
OSP rover race
Kids raced rovers from the start line, around a "Mars rock," and back. This was just one of many children's activities during the 2006 OSP.
Laura Baird
Talks during the day and evening ranged from telescope-making to image-processing to what astronomers contemplate are explanations for dark matter and dark energy. At nightfall, mentoring sessions helped adults and kids use telescopes and star charts to navigate the sky. A nightly constellation tour, including tales of Greek mythology, entertained attendees. But the gems of this year's OSP were the dark skies, good seeing, and companionship on the telescope fields.

Mark your calendars for next year's OSP, August 16–19, 2007, and get more information at the group's web site.
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