Pack your scope and head to Kansas City

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Astronomical Society of Kansas City hosts the annual Heart of America Star Party. // Images courtesy the Astronomical Society of Kansas City
Actually, I should amend the title to “… 75 miles (121 kilometers) south of Kansas City.” That’s where the eighth annual Heart of America Star Party (HoASP) will occur October 3–6. And I’ll be speaking there. Twice. (Whether the second talk has an audience will, I guess, depend on how the first talk goes.)

The host of HoASP is the Astronomical Society of Kansas City (ASKC), one of the most active astronomy clubs in North America. Early in 2005, the club acquired 40 acres of land about 15 miles (24km) east of Butler, Missouri, to develop into a private dark-sky site. The location sits in the Marais des Cygnes (pronounced mare day seen) River Valley, a pristine site bordered by the 7,500-acre Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area.

The observing site has plenty of room for tents, trailers, and RVs. It also has electricity for astronomical equipment, Porta Potties, and showers. You will need to bring your own drinking water, however. A limited number of RV stations with 220-volt/30-amp power outlets are available. These will be assigned in a lottery drawing once all registrations are in.

Members of the ASKC will prepare all meals on site. You’ll find the cost and availability on the HoASP registration form. And if you postmark your registration before September 11, you can get the $20 pre-registration discount.

By the way, for those of you who can’t or choose not to rough it by staying at the site, nearby Butler offers motels and restaurants.

The Heart of America Star Party happens October 3–6. This picture, taken during the 2009 event, shows the camping and telescope setup area — and not a cloud in the sky.

And as I mentioned above, I’m presenting two PowerPoint talks. The first will be “Comet of the Century,” which will take an in-depth look at Comet ISON (C/2012 S1).

My second talk is “A Plan for the Colossus: The World’s Largest Telescope (by far!)” Intrigued? Here’s the description: Because of a strange twist of fate, I have become part of a group of astronomers, engineers, opticians, and entrepreneurs who are creating the world’s largest telescope. The Colossus will be a 74-meter (that’s not a typo) infrared telescope that will have capabilities far beyond the Giant Magellan Telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope, or even the European Extremely Large Telescope. The Colossus team is developing fascinating cutting-edge technologies to make this dream a reality. In this talk, you’ll learn about the idea, the team, the plan, and the expected results — one of which is to find evidence of life on extrasolar planets.

Of course, I’m not the only speaker. Lots of club members will be giving presentations. And a featured speaker is Mark Brodwin, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, who will talk about “The Euclid Mission.” In February 2013 the European Space Agency chose him as a NASA-nominated science team member to participate in its Euclid telescope mission. The mission’s goals are to understand dark energy and dark matter through the use of measurements of the expansion of the universe. Sounds like a great talk!

This will be my first time attending this star party, and I hear the skies are quite dark. (Did the description really say magnitude 6.7???) I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends and making lots of new ones. Maybe you’ll be one of them.

Follow my tweets live from the HoASP on www.twitter.com/AstronomyMag. Check out the star party’s website at www.hoasp.org.

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