Impressions of Starry Nights Festival
As a first timer at the Starry Night Festival held in Yucca Valley by the Andromeda Society, I was taken by way it was presented and the way this little (growing) town on the way to Twenty-Nine Palms welcomed and aided in this event. The event did not have an overwhelming attendance but had very enthusiastic attendees.
The Festival was held in the community center. There was no charge to attend and they had Sandwiches, popcorn, and drinks for sale at very reasonable prices (average One Dollar) and our Wally Pacholka had some of his best prints for sale also. The festival actually began Friday with a formal (not the dress type) greeting followed by a workshop by Wally on how to take astrophotos with simple cameras and equipment, out at a local park (Machris Park) near Black Rock CG of the Joshua Tree National Park. Wally said that he had 25 attendees at his workshop.
We ( Matt Ota and myself) arrived on Saturday morning before the speakers’ presentatations that ran from 1pm to 5pm. Matt set up his LX50 in the courtyard with a Coronado H-alpha scope piggybacked for solar viewing. Speaking of solar viewing, we did the 57-60-10 route to the Twenty-nine Palms turn off. Just outside of Ontario at the Milkan Ave. exit we stopped at the San Antonio Winery… no we did not get wine, the smoke from the fires presented a deep red sun in the sky and provided us a fine naked eye view of the two largest sunspots. Now back to the subject the festival. David Levy was the featured speaker and spoke on his favorite pastime…. Discovering Comets. Before David’s talk a raffle was held with 2 eight-inch F5 dobs being the big prizes. There were numerous dinners given away, a picture by our own Wally Pac., books by David Levy which were autographed by him at the moment and 2 $100 gift certificates donated by Starizona.
The talks given by the preceding presenters covered subjects from Light Pollution to New Age Crystals. Sam Davidson gave a talk titled “Astronomy for Dummies”, Joanne Karl introduced attendees to the relationship between “the Integratron”, a structure designed to be free of the effects of the earth magnetic field and fabled Giant Rock area east of Yucca Valley and Joshua tree and their energies for healing and universal communication. Dr. Gary Peterson presented his “Geological Case for Life on Mars” suggesting that at one time mars had large amounts of water based on his observation of landforms. Between talks attendees came out to look at the sun though the scopes. Being next to the museum and the recreation center many non-attendees also came to look.
Saturday night was the main star party from 7 to 10 pm held at the same park that Wally held his workshop? The city had a truck at the turn off with flashing lights and someone to direct us to the park. The city also had a series of shuttle buses leaving the community center for the parking at the park was limited. At the park there was about 20 telescopes set of varying sizes and types. Among them was Sandy Bumgarner who designs remote telescope control systems and modifies web cameras and security cameras for astronomical use. He was demonstrating the use of a Mintron security with a 4-48mm video camera lens piggybacked on a Celestron NexStar 5. The aperture of the lens was about 30mm but with the system he could place the Andromeda Galaxy on the TV screen (9 inch B&W set) that about 2” in size and showed stars down to 10th magnitude.
Other scopes which I observed through was a 80mm MegaRez refractor, a homemade 8” Maksutov, 8” Celestron NexStar, 12.5” Discovery Newtonian dob, 12”Meade LX-200GPS, Vixen 125x20 binoculars, some ETX’s ranging from 90mm – 125mm aperture and the treat of the night, the Cave 6” Astrola belonging to David Levy. With the many non-astronomers attending it took on the look and feel of an outreach. The viewing area even being a city park had excellent sky visibility. The city even turned down the lighting along the main highway to reduce any light pollution and provided some plastic sheeting to the chain link fence as a windbreak. The wind at 10-15mph hindered high-powered views of Mars but let up at times so that one could use at least 100X on some deep sky objects. The sky was excellent with 6.5 magnitude skies but the seeing was bad when viewing mars.
With David’s 6” scope that gave the best contrast views I was able to see the veil nebula in Cygnus without a filter. It was a night that I had the opportunity to view many deep sky objects with instruments less than 10 inches in aperture that I had only been able to see using a instrument of 10 inches or greater in size.
With the way the city helps with this small festival and the pleasant hosts, this first timer at the festival will return. For those that did not go, I say you missed a good time and a lot of interesting people.
By the way, the festival occurs each October and while it may not attract large numbers it represents a well cross-section of open minded humans interested in enjoying the stars!