Let this post serve as an overview. As I write it I will think of things that I need to at least mention, things we all need to do in preparation for the upcoming Deep South Star Gaze. Some of this is in response to questions and concerns raised by both people who have already registered for the Deep South and by some who have not yet registered but are contemplating attending. What is written below is a condensation of what we have learned and what we have found has worked over the past 37 years. Tweaking for this year has been a joint effort, essentially myself and Len Philpot with some consultation with other long time DSSG attendees.
The Dates – From 12 noon on Tuesday, November 10th to departure no later than 12 noon on Sunday, November 15th. Note – I talked to Carol and anyone that has an open schedule that wants to stay a day or two longer if the weather cooperates, can do that. You will just need to settle up with her individually.
Note too that just because the DSSG starts on a Tuesday and ends on a Sunday does not obligate anyone to come for the entire event. Some can only attend for a day or two. Some may only be able to come up to White Horse on Saturday morning with departure in the evening (during one of the departure time windows we will have. (More about that later.)
Capacity – as previously discussed this edition of the DSSG will be a lot smaller than the attendance we have had in past years. (Attendance has been above 180 plus on two occasions.). Given COVID and a hesitancy by some to attend a star party, I anticipate an attendance this year of between about 35 and 45. Large enough to be fun, but not so large as to be too crowded for our venue. Bunk house capacity is being limited so that we can have decent separation between attendees. As of right now we have just 9 people who have reserved bunk space. The other 20 registrants so far are either in rv’s, campers, tents or are staying off-site. Plenty of bunk space available now, but if filled to our restricted occupancy limit, we will not be able to honor any more bunk space requests.
Remember to bring your own blankets, pillow, towel, soap, etc.
Your Spot – when you register you are assigned to a bunk house. This is dependent not only on the date that you register but also the length of your stay. For those who have registered for rv or camper space and need a 30 amp breaker that is assigned to you based upon when you register. Breaker boxes will be marked with registrant names on a piece of tape on each box. I will also notify each of you and give you details about where you should be.
Within the Arena Field we will have to have canopies spaced a bit more than what we would be doing if there was no COVID. I have calculated placement of canopies, vehicles and telescope footprint. Everyone is limited to a certain acreage if you will. Typically anyone using the Arena Field will have a slot for their vehicle, their canopy and their telescope area. Vehicle spots are 10x20 feet, canopy spots are 10x10 and telescope areas are 10x10 with approximately 5 feet between each of your 3 areas. If in a tent, you can set that up on the Arena Field but it will have to be under your canopy or it can be substituted for your canopy. Same thing for a small trailer. If you want one on the Arena Field, you will have to give up something else on the Arena Field, either your vehicle or your canopy. Sorry guys, but no one can hog more area than anyone else. Also – you cannot hold a spot for someone who has not yet arrived.
Note – there are plenty of spots to set up outside of the Arena Field and our horizons are pretty good in all directions.
Arrival Times – the DSSG begins at 12 Noon on Tuesday the 10th. Do not arrive before that time unless you are part of the setup crew. The setup crew will be marking the Arena Field. Labeling bunk house assignments, labeling breakers for rv’s/campers, putting down ant poison, etc.
Evening Cut-Off for Arrival - Sunset is close to 5:05 pm for the duration of the DSSG so the end of Civil Twilight is close to 5:30 pm so all should arrive no later than this time if you want to be able to drive in safely. No white lights are allowed after 5:30 pm. No driving thru the entry at White Horse after 5:30 pm and no driving onto the Arena Field after 5 pm. No exceptions. Please, please, please do not call me on your drive up to tell me you are running late and need some leniency to drive in. The best I can let you do is to drive in past the entry and park there you will have to walk in the rest of the way. This is a dark sky event and we have rules that are much the same as any other star party. If clear we will not make exceptions. You have to consider others.
If arriving in the late afternoon I would recommend that everyone budget their time so that arrival is no later than 4 pm. This will give you time to set up your scope and canopy or tent, and get your stuff stored in your bunk house prior to dark. May even give you time to purchase a hamburger.
Departure at Night – if you are staying off-site or you are only up for the day and some of the night, we will be giving you opportunities to leave at night. Note – no one leaving during any of the “departure windows” can drive off of the Arena Field; you will have to have your vehicle parked outside of the Arena Field and pointed away from the Arena Field. If departing during a departure window and leaving with your equipment you will have to reload your vehicle like anyone else moving stuff into or out of your vehicle during the course of the night – all lights except your red light have to be off, including all interior lights and your trunk light. No need to lock your vehicle because if you use your key fob to open your vehicle it will activate your horn and your headlights. DON’T DO THAT!
Departure Window Times – 9 pm to 9:15 pm, Midnight to 12:15 am, and 2 am to 2:15 am
When you leave you should use your yellow parking lights only and only if you absolutely need them. If you did not break dark adaptation you should be fine. Once you get to the exit point (brick column with a concrete horse on top), you can turn on your headlights. Have a safe drive!
Laptops - if used for a planetarium program or photographic guiding should be in red (night) mode, additionally you should use a red cover over the screen and an opaque shielded box to cover your computer should also be used to cover your computer. I will find a link to describe all of this in more detail. Your shielded laptop box should be pointed away from other observers on the field. Position it so that the screen can only be seen by you, the screen should be pointed away from other observers on the field.
Here's a good and clear article from Don Pensack: www.eyepiecesetc.com/Laptop_Golden_Rule ... -rules.htm Click the Extended Information tab to see it.
Other Lights on the Field – red shielded flashlights are good, but some can be way too bright. You can tone it down with red fingernail polish on the bulb or some red cellophane up front. Keep it pointed down at the ground, not in others' faces. Also remember to shield bright status lights, LEDs, etc., on equipment.
Lasers – forbidden as pointers or finders at the DSSG as they are at virtually all other organized annual star parties.
Pets – leave them at home. Not welcome. We did not create a registration category for pets.
Smoking – forbidden on the Arena Field, and not allowed in any building. If outside and off the Arena Field and you need to smoke, please distance yourself from others.
Drinking Alcohol – White Horse doesn’t want it. If anything – be discrete, don’t put yourself on the radar screen.
Mask Wearing – I think at this point we can all say that masks are effective, particularly if they are N95 masks. If inside please wear your mask as much as possible. If outside it is not needed unless you are within 6 feet of someone who requests that you put your mask on. Your mask should cover both nose and mouth.
Looking thru someone else’s telescope – if a telescope is unattended please do not presume that it is ok to look thru it unless it is yours. If the owner is there, ask if you can look. The owner may be ok with it or maybe not or maybe ok if you bring over one of your eyepieces to use. It is the owners call, respect his wishes. Remember – COVID is still a concern.
Meals - Dinner (likely hamburgers/hot dogs, but maybe something more elaborate – and pay as you go. This will be available at 4 pm. If the weather is nice you may want to bring your dinner outside to eat on the porch or any other place that floats your boat. If eating inside, separate yourself from others.
I previously asked for those interested in having breakfast provided to let me know. No one has responded. If we do get enough people who want breakfast, that is a possibility. Breakfast would be served at 9 am. Let me know – otherwise we are on our own for breakfast. (Country Diner which is 4 miles away has a very nice and reasonably priced breakfast.)
Meals Off-Site – The Country Diner has reopened after storm damage from earlier in the year. There is also a barbeque restaurant nearby. I will have more details about off-site restaurants in another post.
In the Area – Columbia, MS is 10 miles away, direct line of site. Driving it is about 15 miles away. Bogalusa to the south is 24 miles away. Near Columbia, and about a 18 to 20 mile drive from White Horse is the Little Grand Canyon of Mississippi (also called Red Bluffs). Worthwhile seeing. Also worth checking out is the location of Project Dribble. Check that out on line.
Programs – anyone have any program or project discussion that they can do outside that we can call a program? We want to avoid doing any programs inside. We have two programs now and we can use more. Please contact me if you have something you would like to do.
Door Prizes – We do have and will award door prizes at 3 pm on each day where we have at least 15 people in attendance at the time of the door prize drawing. Door prizes mostly consist of eyepieces and books.
Something to Sell? – bring it or all of it. If it is something big (like a complete telescope) you might want to list it on the message board to see if someone at the DSSG wants to buy it as something that takes up too much space in your vehicle (and does not sell) takes away valuable space for something else in your vehicle.
Questions? Let us know.
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