Featured Stories

Star trackers head for the hills

The 16th annual star party held in the Ochoco mountains will draw more than 700 amateur astronomers and enthusiasts to the area this weekend
The 14th annual Oregon Star Party will be held in the Ochoco National Forest, August 16 through 19. Amateur astronomers will journey from all across the nation to central Oregon, converging in the Ochocos where big sky viewing is at its best.
   The Oregon Star Party (OSP) has welcomed folks for 12 years to this `portal of discovery' situated only an hour away from Prineville.
   Bill Jensen, publicity coordinator for this year's event, indicated that this event represents just one of many such summer and fall gatherings held throughout the US and Canada. Over 700 amateur astronomers are expected at this year's event.
   Like many of the other OSP enthusiasts, Jensen an amateur astronomer from Washington D.C., makes the trek to central Oregon in anticipation of expansive celestial viewing, companionship with others of like-mind, plenty of educational opportunities and of course, fun.
   "For the last six years I have taken a week from the demands of my suburban Washington D.C. existence to join hundreds other amateur astronomers in a journey beyond our planetary boundaries from the Ochoco Mountains, the High Desert country in central Oregon," he said.
   The Oregon Star party is an astronomy adventure featuring quality deep sky viewing. It attracts intellectually curious outdoor lovers who enjoy the romance of a renaissance gathering. "This is not the astronomy of boring classroom books, or guides written by obscure English authors," Jensen continues. "This is the `Hey! I have Saturn in my scope' or the joined voices crying out `wow' as a bright meteor soars overhead, more beautiful in sudden death than in its long life."
   All ages enjoy camping among ponderosa, juniper, mountain mahogany and sage. "Past attendees have told us emphatically how much they have enjoyed the camaraderie and dark skies of Indian Trail Spring, and that they will return again," he said.
   In the evening, a forest of telescopes and bustling observers grows on the high prairie. Beauty and quality are apparent in personally engineered and constructed instruments. Large telescopes, personal computers and sophisticated tracking systems promise power and ability. But high technology does not overshadow the great personal satisfaction of using small telescopes, binoculars and naked eye viewing.
   Almost everyone welcomes a polite request to share a telescopic view as is the spirit of the OSP.
   "That is the ultimate part of the star party, the sharing of views with good friends and the simple joy of dim objects giving up their secrets all night long," Jensen said.
   Activities for kids, a chance to learn about astronomy, vendors, and more are on tap for the 4-day long event. Registration is by mail or from the OSP web site at www.oregonstarparty.org.