Blog - Golden State Star Party 2013
July 6, 2013 - Northeastern California
It was late March when my good friend, Jarrod McKnelly, proposed the idea of attending a larger star party than our standard local club events and turned me towards the website for Golden State Star Party. We booked our reservations and begin waiting for the trip to begin. Finally, on July 5th at 9:00am, we left his home in his parents' RV, destined for Redding. We had decided ahead of time to travel most of the way the day before the party began, so we would be fresh for setup and our first night of imaging. We arrived in Redding at about 5:00 and tried to get a good night's sleep, knowing the fun that lay ahead the next day.
We departed Redding on July 6th at about 6:30am. The drive along Highway 299 was gorgeous - scenic forests reminiscent of driving through Oregon, volcanic lands filled with nothing but brush, and lots of farmland, interrupted infrequently by very small towns. We pulled onto the designated land on Frosty Acres Ranch, checked in, and drove to our parking spot. We got our gear set up, while enjoying a beautiful view of Mount Shasta in the distance. Then, it was just waiting for it to get dark - something that seems to take forever at 41 North.
For Night 1, I chose to do wide-field shots of the Antares and Sagittarius regions, knowing that I could easily photograph multiple objects with my EF-S 60mm Macro lens. While my camera was busy clicking away, I marveled at the darkness of the night sky - darker and clearer than anything I had ever seen before. I also got the opportunity to stare at objects through some rather large scopes: viewing M51 though a 28-inch Obsession was a real treat!
For Night 2, I switched to my Orion 8-Inch Astrograph as my imaging platform, taking images of the Western Veil Nebula (NGC6960) as well as Fireworks Galaxy (NGC6946). I did have some guiding issues due to the surprisingly-heavy night breezes that came through, but I still ended up with two satisfactory images.
For Night 3 (our final night), I decided to take advantage of the dark southern skies even more, as our main observing site does not offer darkness in the southern sky. I took the opportunity to image four star clusters (M6, M7, M11, and M14), and then went north again, imaging the Iris Nebula (NGC7023).
While GSSP actually goes for four nights, Jarrod and I had decided to only stay for three, especially since I had a wife and 18-month old daughter waiting for me at home. I actually feel very fortunate that I was able to leave them home along for as long as I did.
Certainly, having truly dark skies is the main advantage of an event such as Golden State Star Party. However, being able to meet others with the same passion as my own and collaborate with other people who photograph the skies was wonderful. I thank the organizers of GSSP, the owners of Frosty Acres Ranch for renting us the land, and the many people who allowed me to look through scopes much better than my own. I look forward to more long-duration star parties in the future.