Live Music & Star Party at Oracle State Park
Posted: 23 June 2014
Except for some early wind (which went away after sunset), the conditions were excellent at the Park. Visitors to the Park started arriving about 5 PM to do some picnic-ing and visit with friends. The music portion of the event started at 6 PM with the excellent "The Undercover Band" and continued to about 8 PM. I had set up my PST (Personal Solar Telescope) to allow attendees to view the sun in Hydrogen-Alpha light. There were several nice prominences visible and many people who had never viewed the sun before through a telescope were amazed. As sunset approached some of the many telescopes began showing Jupiter, low in the western sky. I had set up my ETX-90RA and ETX-125AT but mostly used the ETX-125AT for viewing. Some people had brought their own telescopes and several members of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA) brought their telescopes.
Park visitors continued to arrive from 6-7 PM, at one point backing up traffic on to Mt Lemmon Road at the Park entrance. During a break in the music about sunset, Park Ranger Jennifer Rinio welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming out to the Park. Then I, speaking on behalf of the Oracle Dark Skies Committee, also thanked the visitors and briefly talked about the work of the Committee. I introduced Dr. John Barentine of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), who discussed the mission of the IDA. Lastly, Bryan Martyn, Executive Director of Arizona State Parks, thanked all the visitors and noted the large size of the audience.
As darkness fell, the telescopes began showing the planets of Mars and Saturn. Many a "WOW!" could be heard across the Kannally Ranch House patio as people got their first view of Saturn and its Ring System through a telescope. The moon Titan made a nice appearance too. I spent most of my of time during darkness showing Mars and Saturn. As the sky got very dark, the rising Milky Way added a nice touch, showing just how dark the sky is at Oracle State Park. I had hoped to get around to see how the other telescopes were being used, but the crowd was so large that I was way too busy to do that!
As it turned out, the number of visitors to Oracle State Park for this event numbered about 350! That's an incredibly large number of visitors for a specific event, given the distance that some people traveled to reach the Park. It demonstrates the popularity of the Park and the type of evening and nighttime events held there. My sincere thanks to all who worked to make this event such an outstanding success and the many many Park visitors who came out to Oracle State Park for an evening of "Live Music and Star Party".
As I was so busy I didn't get many opportunities to take photos during the event. But here's what I did get.
Dr. John Barentine at the IDA table:
Mike Weasner at the ODSC table:
Some of the early visitors on the Kannally Ranch House patio and some of the telescopes that had been set up:
The Friends of Oracle State Park table. The Friends donated bottles of water for the visitors.
Visitors talking with friends, with a telescope set up in the background:
Another of the telescopes that had been set up:
The Undercover Band:
Visitors enjoying the music:
This panorama was taken after sunset by MaryHelen Vasquez and shows many of the 350 visitors:
After the Star Party ended (after 10 PM), Dr. John Barentine (IDA) and I discussed the night sky quality at Oracle State Park. This was his first night visit to Oracle and he was very impressed with the dark sky available here, especially given the nearby large city of Tucson. We both did Sky Quality Measurements with excellent results. His experience will help bolster our submittal to IDA to have Oracle State Park designated as an "International Dark Sky Park" later this year.
I left the Park about midnight, exhausted, but very happy with the success of this "Live Music and Star Party" at Oracle State Park.
I received the following photos from Rich Stevens. If you have photos of the event that you would like included here, send them to me at email@example.com. Thanks.
Yes, that's me
Eastern sky shortly after sunset
The Oracle Dark Skies Committee (ODSC) web site is now live. Click the link to learn more about the ODSC, what it is doing for Oracle State Park and the community, past events where the ODSC participated, future events where the ODSC will be, and how you can help Oracle State Park "Go for the Gold".
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