The great tradition
of dark sky observing continues with the
26th Annual TEXAS STAR PARTY, May 16 - 23, 2004!
I attended Texas Star Party 2004, held again this year, May 16-23, on
the Prude Ranch, in Fort Davis, TX, in the shadow of McDonald
Observatory. I have been attending this event every year for more than
20 years. TSP and the many friends I have made there over the years is
an important part of my life
I managed to get a room assignment, even though I had registered
late, and left Wednesday night right after my computer class at Richland
College. I made it to Abilene by midnight, spent the night in a Days
Inn, for way too much money, and arrived at the Prude Ranch about 2:30
Thursday afternoon. (It's 500 miles from Dallas.) I stayed in Harmony
-1, a 10 person bunk house populated by members of the Johnson Space
Center Astronomical Society, of NASA and Houston. The group included
Dennis Webb, who created the Arp Galaxy program for the Astronomical
League. They were a great bunch of guys. It is always fun to meet new
astronomers and learn about their projects.
Enjoying the Shade in
front of Harmony-1
Thursday evening, right after I finished setting up my scope, it
started to rain, and rained all night. Fortunately, I was able to get
the scope covered securely, and loaded everything else back into the
car. But I ended up with two great nights of observing, as both Friday
and Saturday night were vintage TSP, perfectly clear and dark. And the
side effect of the night of rain was no dust this year on the observing
fields. They tell me that the early part of the week was also great for
observing, in spite of a major storm on Sunday that left standing water
two inches deep on the observing field. Things dry up quickly in west
12-inch Newtonian on a Big Foot Mount
Wrapped Up and Protected
from the Dust and the Rain
It's not Easy to Frame
a Shot in the Dark!
I completed all the galaxies in Virgo over the two nights I had to
observe, the 24 objects remaining on my list in that constellation.
Under the dark TSP skies, not only was I able to find the "faint fuzzies"
quite easily, but because of the transparency, I was usually able to see
the other fainter galaxies in the field that are usually washed out when
one is observing closer to home. I now have only 18 objects to go, some
clusters in Monoceros and Gemini, to finish the Herschel 400 program,
but will have to wait until January to complete the list, since these
are winter constellations. I have been working on this project since
Dennis Webb Introduces Wil Tirion
I only went to one presentation this year: Wil Tirion. Yes, that Wil
Tirion, the author of Sky Atlas 2000.00, the most widely used set of
star charts in the world. He was there from the Netherlands with his
wife, and was a big hit. Not only was he gracious and charming to
everyone, but he was a fascinating speaker, as he explained how he got
interested in drawing star maps, and the various methods he has used
over the years, including hand stenciled maps on drawing tables and
filling in the dots with an ink pen to computer plots and Adobe
Wil Tirion Autographs
Star Charts During TSP 2004
The line to get books autographed seemed endless, and I stood for
more than 30 minutes waiting to get my personal copy of Star Atlas
2000.0 autographed. But lines offer ample opportunity to chat, and there
is always something to talk about at TSP. Wil was gratified to see that
my book has been well used over the years, and I am especially proud now
to have it autographed by the author. I also mentioned to him that I had
written a review of the 2nd edition of this magnificent star atlas,
while I was REFLECTOR editor, which is still posted on Amazon.com.
Coordinated the Book Signing
Provided the Autographs
Bob Summerfield, who was coordinating the book signing event,
remarked that after signing hundreds of copies of books, Wil Tirion's
signature looked exactly the same as when he started "20 hours ago!"
Truly a phenomenon. We seldom get the chance to be in the presence of
someone who truly matters in this world, and I was moved by the whole
experience of meeting Wil Tirion.
I drove back to Dallas Sunday afternoon, after a late breakfast at
the Fort Davis Drug Store with Bob and Lisa Summerfied, Marilyn Unrhuh,
Debbie Moran, and Matt Delavoryas, and a final farewell to TSP 2004. I
got in about midnight.
I hate being home!
Ed Flaspoehler, Dallas, TX