2009 Nebraska Star Party

I went out to Merritt Reservoir in north central Nebraska with my brother and his daughter to attend the Nebraska Star Party.  It's a gathering of amateur astronomers from a wide area to a very dark corner of Nebraska.  There were over 200 registered participants bringing all sorts of telescopes, some even home made.  The days were warm and the nights were quite cool, requiring a jacket.  We set up camp at the Snake Campground and our observing location on a nearby hill.

We saw Saturn and one of it's moons, with a mostly edge on view of it's rings, Jupiter and four of it's moons, the Lagoon Nebula, the Ring Nebula, the Owl or ET Cluster the Andromeda Galaxy, the Whirlpool Galaxy, and a variety of other nebula, double stars and star clusters.  And of course the Milky Way was bright and obvious.

Be sure to click on these thumbnail photos for larger versions.

1. Some of the telescopes on the hill near where we were set up.

2. This is our observing location.  Randy is doing initial set up on the 10 inch Dob he brought.  Unfortunately, Dob telescopes don't work well with cameras.  The other hi-tech 2x4 thing is my "barn door" star tracker.  I'll use that to take pictures.  All of the pictures of stars coming up were taken with a 35mm digital camera mounted to my "barn door" star tracker.

3. I think he's doing a laser alignment.

4. Some of the other telescopes at the event.

5. They mowed and bailed the grass over a large area so we had a lot of room to set up.

6. Some of the other telescopes at the event.

7. That's the chow / field school tent.  During the day, they held classes on some of the basics of astronomy.

8. A couple more telescopes and a portable observatory in the background.

9. Walking toward the portable observatory to get a better look.

10. He has solar panels for power.

11. Looking back toward the chow tent.

12. Here is a good shot of the business side of the portable observatory.

13. Merritt Reservoir, nestled in the sand hills.

14. There is our campsite on the left, and our observing site on the hill to the right.

15. Our campsite.  Need any water?  Randy's ready to pump.

16. Another area where several telescopes were set up.

17. Let's walk down and get a closer look.

18. Some of these are pretty big.

19. Checking the skies out.

20. It's looking a little cloudy.

21. Everyone is getting set up though, hoping for the best.

22. Our two neighbors in the foreground getting set up despite the ominous looking clouds.

23. Our set up in the foreground, our two neighbors just behind.

24. Sunset was gorgeous.

25. The skies did clear up, but the dew was really heavy.  This is the only decent shot I got the first night.  Looks like I caught a meteor.

26.   S p i d e r !

27. Don't do that to me first thing in the morning!

28. Walking around, looking at telescopes.

29. Walking around, looking at telescopes.

30. Walking around, looking at telescopes.

31. Having breakfast and relaxing.

32. Walking around, looking at telescopes.

33. Walking around, looking at telescopes.

34. Walking around, looking at telescopes.

35. Walking around, looking at telescopes.

36. Walking around, looking at telescopes.

37. It started pouring rain just as we were getting dinner at the chow tent.  Getting late in the evening now and guess what, it's cloudy.  Do you get the feeling you're being watched?

38. Predictions were that it would clear though and sure enough, it did.  Oops, forgot to turn on the tracking motor.

39. Ah, that's better.  Carl Sagan was right, there are Billions and Billions of stars.

40. The Milky Way was the brightest and most obvious I have ever seen it.  Just incredible.

41. The next day, and walking around some more.  Can you tell we're in Nebraska?

42. More telescopes.

43. Just another angle on the hill that we were observing from.

44. There is the chow / field school tent again.

45. Just looking around.

46. This thing is a monster!  This is a Newtonian type telescope specially built so it has an un-obstructed aperture.

47. Getting close to our third night.  Just after sunset, they had a class at the chow tent about the constellations.  They used a green laser to point out each star as they talked.  That was cool, it looked like the green laser reached all the way up to and touched each star they pointed out.  We even got to see the space station fly over during the class.  Too cool!

48. Just as it was getting good and dark, the aurora started up.  Wow!

49. The Milky Way.

50. Billions and Billions of stars.  The dense patch of stars is in the constellation Cygnus.  The bright star toward the top of the picture is Vega.  Deneb is low in the picture, left of center.  Click here to see a constellation overlay.

51. The Milky Way.

52. That's our two neighbors.  In the dark, you use red light to see what you're doing.  Red light helps you preserve your night vision.

53. One last shot.  That is the Andromeda Galaxy, low center in the picture.