This past week, some 409 amateur astronomers gathered at a remote camp in the Panhandle of Oklahoma near the tiny village of Kenton for the 30th Okie-Tex Star Party. I was privileged to be invited as the keynote speaker on Saturday night, and spent Thursday through Sunday at the event, traveling from Milwaukee to Dallas to Amarillo and then on up to Kenton. Following on the heels of trips to speak at Harvard University and for deep observing sessions at the Arizona Sky Village the previous two weeks, I have to say that I’m exhausted. But the experience was great, the people wonderful, and the enthusiasm for amateur astronomy unbridled.
Old friends in the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club put on the Okie-Tex each year, and they do a magnificent job. Chairman Mike Dennis is assisted by David Higgins (a name readers of deep-sky stories in Astronomy
and Deep Sky
will recognize), Larry Beatty, Phil Kuebler, Jim Edlin, Victor Stover, Steve Leikind, and many in the Oklahoma City club.
Tucked near the borders of Colorado and New Mexico, the site features extraordinarily dark skies. Early last week, the weather was great — warm temperatures and great steady seeing, allowing for superb observing. Some were buzzing about recent auroral activity they had seen and imaged. Thursday night, the night I arrived, was beautiful — but on Friday a cold front swept through and temps plummeted. That chilled the observing on Friday and Saturday nights, restricting it to the diehards, and the seeing was choppy late in the week.
But we had great rounds of presentations on a variety of subjects. Kerry Magruder of the University of Oklahoma spoke about Johannes Kepler. As curator of the history of science collections of the university, he described upcoming exhibitions that will be spectacular in featuring rare books and works relating to Kepler and Galileo. The university has one of the greatest collections of such works in the world. More on that to come later.
Friday’s talks included Terry Trees on observing small moons of the solar system, Dave Cotterell on observing double stars, Bill Romanishin of the University of Oklahoma speaking about the Trojan and Hilda families of asteroids. The following day’s speakers included the magnificent Jack Eastman of the Denver Astronomical Society on constructing tiny telescopes and my late talk about comets, visitors from deep space.
It was a great celebration of amateur astronomy, which included many young folks as well as the old-timers who have attended lots of past star parties. The Oklahoma City Astronomy Club needs to be congratulated for putting on a highly successful event just the right way. Many other astronomy clubs could learn some lessons from them.