The Staunton River Star Party Observing Field

Staunton River State Park hosts two Star Parties each year – one in the spring and one in the fall. We’ve gone to the fall Star Party for 3 years but have always decided that the one in March is too cold or too wet. Maybe we’ll go in 2018. The park has a large field that has been used long enough that the soil is packed down almost as hard as the asphalt road (where the Visitor Center….and bathrooms (hurray) are located). The ‘road’ to our camp site started between the orange cones and was the closest we’ve ever been to the Visitor Center – something I noticed every time I made the trek to the facilities in the dark.

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There are lots of different set ups but probably the most honed for astronomy is a tent that has an opening for the telescope (the black patch on the top). They are relatively expensive and probably not something we’ll ever do but I can still appreciate the idea.

There are power cables from central posts out to hubs that are covered with big buckets on the field and everyone picks a spot close enough to one of them to have the power they need. There are many kinds of tents and campers…some people brought their gear in a small trailer and then used the trailer to sleep in. There is also a lot of variety of telescopes and covers for them during the day. Almost everyone has a computer along with their telescope – and the associated table and chair for it. Awnings help with the sun during the day and dew at night.

For the first couple of days, there were fewer people than I remembered from previous years. By Thursday the numbers were increasing, and people were still arriving when we left on Friday – before Saturday when there were more lectures and public observing in the evening. I wondered who would get the spot we left open on the field….a prime location.