October is here, and that means the weather should start to be a little cooler (maybe), night time comes a little earlier, and more importantly, fall star party season is upon us! As I write this message, the UBarU star party was held just a few weeks ago, the Okie-Tex Star Party is happening this upcoming week, and in a month, the Eldorado Star Party will be in full swing. For many of us, it’s a great time to get away under dark skies with many other kindred spirits to observe, take astrophotographs, enjoy great speakers, and otherwise enjoy the time away from the hustle-and-bustle of the big city.
For many people, the lead-up to their first “real” star party can be a bit of a nervous time. “What if my gear malfunctions?” “What if I forgot a critical piece of equipment and now, I’m hundreds of miles from home?” Or, perhaps the most intimidating thought of all, “what if I’m the one person who happens to ruin everything by committing the dreaded light violation?”
Star parties can be a bit overwhelming the first time you visit one. The first time I visited the Texas Star Party, there were hundreds of other astronomers there, all seemingly more knowledgeable about astronomy than I was, and all with much better telescopes than what I lugged out to Fort Davis (this is certainly an exaggeration, but that’s how I felt the first time). The terrain is dusty, the air is dry, and if the animals around there don’t kill you, the plants certainly seem like they will.