It has taken a few days to recover from the long drive back from Eden Valley (just east of Oroville, WA) and the Table Mountain Star Party. I had never been to this event before, although it has been going on for longer than I’ve been into astronomy, and it used to be much closer. So while I don’t yet have any astro-photos from there, I want to give you a quick report.
To put it in as few words as possible: Wonderful! Aside from the long drive, that is. Not so many years ago, this star party was held, as the name suggests, at Table Mountain, which is near Ellensburg, WA, and not to be confused with the other Table Mountain (!) in the Columbia Gorge. The area was devastated by a fire some years ago and cannot be used until it recovers. The new (temporary?) site is a beautiful place that is almost in Canada. The Eden Valley Guest Ranch is a working farm that offers a handful of cottages and many rural attractions for visitors. And they also make a large field available for the star party every summer. In the photo above you can see much of the valley, the farm house, and the main observing field in the foreground. This photo was taken before many people arrived, but it’s not nearly as big an event as the Oregon Star Party. I estimate there were about 300 people there.
The location is not only beautiful, it is relatively convenient. It’s only about 10 miles from Oroville and the road is paved almost the whole way, so it’s easy to go into town for supplies or to pick up the item you forgot to bring. There is food and water available on site. Cell phone service is spotty to non-existent, but you can get limited wifi service for a very modest fee.
Most people set up their RV or campsite right around the main observing field, which makes it a bit crowded, but also makes for good socializing and sharing of views. Since my use of a laptop for imaging sometimes bothers visual observers, I was careful to keep a red filter over the screen at all times. There was plenty of space farther away from the main field, and I would have set up in such a spot, but as a vendor I had to be close to the main pathway.
The sky was not quite as dark as it is at OSP, but similar to the place I go in Goldendale, and without the distraction of local light sources. Transparency and seeing can’t really be judged from spending just a few nights, as they vary with the weather, but I suspect the conditions are reasonably good most of the time.
Like OSP, it gets hot during the day and cold at night. It actually didn’t get as hot as I expected during the day, but was colder than expected at night, getting down to freezing one night. The wind was much less of a problem than it is at OSP, where it is very common to have strong winds in the late afternoon and evening. Sometimes dangerously strong winds.
The TMSP schedule often conflicts with OSP, as I suspect it will next year. Both are held near a New Moon, but while OSP selects the New Moon in August, TMSP selects one near the transition from July to August. So this year TMSP was in late July and OSP will be late August, but next year they will probably both be in early August.
I hope to get back to TMSP sometime, but I’m definitely going to fix the air conditioning in my motorhome before making that drive again!