100 Campus Drive, 108 LA
Elkins, West Virginia 26241

Event Website: http://www.ahsp.org/

Mark your calendars now for the 2006 Almost Heaven Star party at beautiful Spruce Knob, West Virginia. Held at the darkest site in the East, the AHSP has amenities - hot showers, meal service, and internet access - you won't find at any other star party. Plus you'll enjoy daytime programs for the whole family - like hiking, birding, canoeing, caving, and mountain biking.

Dark skies, new friends, outdoor adventure; don't wait to reserve your spot at the Almost Heaven Star Party!

Event information

Who, what, when, where, and why?
The Almost Heaven Star Party will be held August 24-28, 2006, at the Mountain Institute in Spruce Knob, WV. This will be a joint venture of NOVAC and the Virginia Outdoor Lighting Taskforce and all proceeds will be used to fight light pollution. Spruce Knob is one of the premier dark-sky sites in the East! The Mountain Institute provides an outstanding observing location as well as civilized amenities like hot showers, meal service, and internet access. Directions available.

For GPS users:
TMI Entrance
N 38° 40' 25'' W 079° 34' 11''
Center of Main Observing Field
N 38° 40' 36'' W 079° 34' 02''
Center of CCD Imaging Area
N 38° 41' 10'' W 079° 33' 45''
RV Area / Yurts
N 38° 41' 00'' W 079° 33' 26''

How much is the event?
Registration is $60 for adults and $110 for a family. Camping privileges are included in the registration fee; there's no separate charge.
Meals provided on site are $25 per day for adults and $12.50 per day for children. (Meal plan details.)

Is this event for me?

A truly dark sky is a sight that few get a chance to see. For amateur astronomers who are used to backyard astronomy in the light-polluted suburbs, the sky at Spruce Knob will be an experience that you won't forget. While the trip takes some time, it will be worth it. However, if your idea of roughing it is a Days Inn, you might want to pass. While the amenities at The Mountain Institute make this far from a primitive site, camping is not for everyone. We recommend that you come prepared and have reasonable camping experience in order to fully enjoy AHSP.

Will there be a tour of the radio telescope?

We will again have a tour of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's facilities at Green Bank, West Virginia. The tour is currently scheduled for Friday, August 25th. This year we are trying to secure a tour bus to shuttle attendees to NRAO. The tour is free but will be limited to the first 50 who register. If we are able to reserve a bus there will be a small charge added for transportation. The planned agenda looks like this:

1:00 pm: Arrive for general astronomy talk for whole group with NRAO staff scientist
2:00 pm: Break group in two:
1/2 group takes guided tour
1/2 group rotates through GBT control room tour/ exhibit hall/ gift shop
3:30 pm: Rotate groups

If I have a telescope, but don't know how to use it, can someone help me?

Yes! Bring your telescope. This is why star parties are so popular. There are always a lot of friendly and experienced people who will be happy to help you set up your equipment and to observe the sky. In addition we will have workshops like polar alignment, star hopping, and Go To 101 to help you to get more out of your equipment and the hobby.

What if I don't have a telescope?

Feel free to walk around and ask questions and ask to look through other people's telescopes. Astronomers are a friendly bunch and most are more than willing to let you peek through their eyepieces. Don't forget to bring binoculars if you have them. Many astronomical objects are best viewed through binoculars, and they also come in handy during the day for viewing birds and wildlife.

Aside from astronomy, what else is there to do?

This year we are planning to offer a wide range of outdoor activities, such as canoeing trips, nature hikes, rock climbing, and caving.
Explore nearby Spruce Knob Lake which offers boating, fishing, and hiking.
Enjoy the scenery, bring your camera and binoculars.
There are plenty of trails for hiking and biking.
Check out the Monongahela National Forest.
We plan to have internet connectivity, so you won't be entirely cut off from the world.

What presentations will be given, and by whom?

Check the AHSP event page for program updates and additions.

Will there be power available to recharge batteries?

Portable batteries may be recharged at the charging station located near the registration area. Only trickle chargers drawing less than 2 amps AC may be used and use will be regulated so as to allow as many people as possible to use the facility. You must supply your own charger and AHSP is not responsible for any damage to batteries or personal injury resulting from misuse. If you don't know how to properly recharge your batteries, please do not use the recharging station.


Can I camp and stay with my equipment?

This year you will have several options.

Option 1
Camping with your car and equipment will be possible on the lower observing field. This field is quite large, so you'll also be able to park right on the field.

Note that only normal passenger vehicles, such as cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs will be allowed to do this. RVs and trailers (<20' long) will also be allowed on the lower observing field. There will be a central area set up for scopes and it will be flanked by two rows of parking. The parking spots will be approximately 15' wide and 30' deep.

Option 2
For a limited number of early registrants, you will be given the option to use several observing areas that are in closer proximity to the showers and meals. These spaces will be aproximately 15' square. However as space is limited in these areas, you will not be able to park a vehicle in the space. You may unload your gear at the observing area and park your vehicle in designated areas which may not be close to your observing space.

Option 3
Large RVs and trailers (>20' long), will only be permitted in the RV parking area near the middle observing field for an additional fee.

See the site map [98 kb JPEG] for camping and parking locations.

No power is available in the RV parking area. See policies for more details on RVs.

Note that "camping activites" such as open fires are prohibited, as are any white-light sources on or near the observing area.

How many meals are being provided?

Meals are provided on a per day basis. You may choose the number of days that you would like meals during registration. In addition, there will also be a catering truck available on the lower field to purchase food and snacks.
Thursday, August 24: Lunch & Dinner
Friday, August 25: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Saturday, August 26: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Sunday, August 27: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Monday, August 28: Breakfast only

Your badge will have a bar code that will be good for one meal per sitting. Badges can not be used more than once at any given meal. If you lose your badge, a new one will be issued that invalidates your old one.

Goto event website for menus:

Can I have a campfire and cook my own meals?

You may not have a open campfire. You may, however, use self-contained stoves and chemical heating packs.

How do I get around at the site?

TMI is a large site. The distance from the shower area to the central observing field is approximately 200 yards. The distance from the yurts where the meals are served to the lower observing field is approximately 3/4 of a mile. Those who are located in the lower observing area will need to decide whether walking for meals will be a viable option. Bringing a mountain bicycle is an excellent way to get around.

The use of personal vehicles on the site is restricted. Moving your vehicle is not allowed from 8 pm to 8 am except in the case of an emergency. During other times vehicles are allowed to enter and exit the site. However, traffic above the lower observing field entrance is prohibited without a special pass.

A limited number of shuttle passes will be issued to attendees that want to be able to use their vehicles above the lower field to access the yurt parking lots. Only those who are willing and able to regularly share the ride with other observers will be issued a pass. Special observing and parking spaces will be designated for this. Vehicles with limited ground clearance should not apply as the road is rough. SUVs and vans will be given priority. If you are willing help shuttle attendees and would like to apply for a pass, please send a request by email to [email protected]. Include your name and vehicle information. Your vehicle must be able to carry a minimum of 3 passengers.

Is there any phone, radio, or Internet connectivity?

Due to the site's remoteness and location within the National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ), cell phone service is unavailable.
You may use and are encouraged to bring Family Radio Services (FRS) Radios.
You may use amateur radio equipment, assuming you're licensed to do so.
We have coordinated with the interference office at the nearby National Radio Astronomy Observatory regarding our event. We'll be checking with them just prior to our event to verify that they're observing in a radio frequency range that will be unaffected by our activities. While we expect this to be the case, we will otherwise ask that participants limit use of radio devices (FRS radios and the like) in order to ensure that our event doesn't cause the RF equivalent of light pollution for our colleagues at the observatory.
We plan to make Internet services available so you can access the web, your email, and upload photos.

Can I bring an FRS radio?

We would like to establish a band-plan for the radios. Simply put:

Channel # Usage at AHSP
Ch 1 - 462.5625Mhz
Low volume/high priority traffic.
Event communications, emergencies, messaging, etc. Someone will be monitoring this channel all the time.
Ch 2 - 462.5875Mhz
High volume/low priority traffic.
Event management: parking cordination, sky tours, general announcements, etc.

All other channels, 3 on up, are totally available for observer usage. (Considerations when buying an FRS radio.)

We have coordinated with the interference office at the nearby National Radio Astronomy Observatory regarding our event. We'll be checking with them just prior to our event to verify that they're observing in a radio frequency range that will be unaffected by our activities. While we expect this to be the case, we will otherwise ask that participants limit use of radio devices (FRS radios and the like) in order to ensure that our event doesn't cause the RF equivalent of light pollution for our colleagues at the observatory.

Observing conditions and rules

Can I have any light on the field?

This is a dark site. Since it is very easy to lose your dark adaption, the use of glow sticks or any source of white light is prohibited. Only low-powered, red-filtered flashlights are permitted in the observing areas.
Laser pointers may not be used, as they interfere with observers doing astrophotography. The one possible exception to this rule: we may conduct a "star tour" just after dark as part of the formal program using a laser pointer.

Will there be power on the field?

We will not be running any power to the observing area. However, we will be providing 110 VAC power at the site for the purpose of charging batteries on a first-come, first-served basis as capacity allows. You are encouraged to bring sufficient battery power to operate your equipment.
Many observers use deep-cycle marine batteries or the smaller lawn tractor variety. Portable 12 VDC power packs with reasonable capacity are easily available at stores such as Costco or Wal-Mart for under $75.

To operate AC equipment you can also pick up a 12 VDC to 110 VAC inverter.

What will the temperature be like?

The observing field is 4300 feet above sea level. Expect a wide range of temperatures. During the day temperatures can range from 50 degrees to 80 degrees and temperatures at night can get down to the 40s even in August. Here's a weather page for Spruce Knob.
Dress warmly and in layers.

Will the moon be a problem?
No. The new moon will be on August 23rd and during the event the moon will be below the horizon most of the evening.

Will there be observing during the day?

Actually, yes. Many astronomers have filters that allow observation of the sun and we expect that several specialized hydrogen alpha scopes will be set up to observe amazing details like prominences and filaments. Check out the NOVAC Solar SIG page for details and pictures of solar observing.
During the day, there will be a number of astronomy-related presentations and hands-on demonstrations that you can attend.

Official Website: http://www.ahsp.org/

Added by ranakabir on June 8, 2006