Maupin, OR Star Party

By: Vlad Fedosov

aving an opportunity to observe during a multi-night star party is a rare opportunity that I always look forward to! This is a time where I usually like to bring out my light bucket, set up for at least two nights. This is a time I like to really chase down some new faint fuzzies that I have never seen before, as well as visit some old favorites along the way. My astronomy club has a dark site observing site near the city of Maupin, OR which is about 2 hours from Portland, OR.

Even though I was really looking forward to this star party when the day came for me to leave the sky was unfortunately 100% cloudy in Portland. The forecast for Maupin was a mostly clear sky, but this was hard to believe. Non the less I packed up the car and headed towards Maupin. As I approached Mt. Hood and the mountain range that separates the rainy west of Oregon and the aired east it began to rain! At this point, I was really considering turning around and going home. Looking at the GPS, it showed that I was only about 45 minutes away from Maupin. I said; what the hack I might as well get there and then decide if I will stay. Much to my surprise only about 10 minutes further when I was on the East side of the mountains the sky started to clear! By the time I got to the observing site the sky was mostly clear and beautiful!

Having arrived I proceeded to set up my rooftop tent on my truck and the 16” Meade Lightbridge(LB) scope. There were 3-4 other people already set up at the site when I arrived around 3 pm so I proceeded to chat with the other guys there. Having got settled in I was waiting for darkness to come. And buy was it a wait. Sunset was around 10 pm but it did not get totally dark until about 1130pm! I started the evening by observing the planets. Jupiter was first up. For this star party, I planned to observe with my newly acquired Binotron. Having slipped in the massive Binotron in the LB focuser from the get-go I could tell that the seeing was not going to be that great that night. As darkness fully set in, it was time to switch to observing some deep sky objects. What was lacking in the seeing department was made up by the very dark skies of central Oregon.
The first night there I was quite tired after work and I decided to spend it observing some old favorite DSO’s. The Binotron was performing very well, and I was convinced that the views that it provided of the brighter DSO’s were on par and in some ways better than a single eyepiece. The view was definitely refreshing as I got a new perspective on the objects that I have seen many times. This may not be true with smaller apertures, but when utilizing a light bucket a good binoviewer from a dark sky is truly a remarkable experience!

The next day was spent reading a book, doing some solar observing with a Lunt 60mm H-Alpha, and taking a few naps. I must say that it was one of the longest days of my life. When you do not have much to do it is truly remarkable how slow time elapses. Throughout the day a few more people showed up. Once fully dark I spent the second night working through a list of dimmer NGC’s from a few constellations in the Sagittarius region as the deep southern sky was well positioned and is normally difficult to observe from the Northwest part of the USA. Of note was the remarkable view that I got of the Vail nebula through Steve’s 22” custom built dob. The detail was totally mind blowing but perhaps what impressed me, even more, is the contrast that the scope displayed.

Another very memorable observation from that night was comparing the view of m51 with Steve’s 22” and my 16”. In all honesty, the first time I looked at m51 with the 22” I was a bit underwhelmed at the difference in what I’m used to seeing in the 16”. Upon closer examination of the view in the 22” I could defiantly see more structure in the spiral arms and the nebula/star cluster regions of the galaxy were definitely more obvious.
Observing deep into the night at around 4 am I noticed that the view was getting noticeably worst. Having lifted my head up towards the east I could immediately see why; dawn was upon us. Having to be at work this day I reluctantly wrapped up all my gear and headed home. This was definitely an awesome star party, one that I will not soon forget! Vlad.