The 38th Annual Deep South Star Gaze is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, November 10th and run to Sunday, November 15th.
Before I write more about it I would like everyone reading this to take a look at this -
https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/7013 ... ons-shown/
I started this thread on CloudyNights several months ago. Don't read all of it, just scroll down to post #25, which is the most recent revision of all the earlier posts. It lists the various star parties for the year with known status. As you will see that almost all of them with just one or two exceptions beyond the Winter Star Party (which took place in February) were cancelled. Most star parties with dates beyond June are cancelled, even some scheduled in October. Some do remain "on the books" but I am sure that some of those will cancel too.
No one needs to ask "Why all the cancellations?" We know the answer to that, but just to put it out there - Covid-19. For many of the cancelled star parties, it was not the star party organizers making a judgement call, as the venue management decided that. (Most were held in state parks or wildlife management areas and cancellations were venue decisions, typically state government decisions. Given the current up tic in cases given some easing of restrictions, the cancellations were good decisions.
Coming from a career in the medical field (and still being a product rep in surgery and in the OR) I am not particularly optimistic that one or more vaccines will be human subject tested and widely available by November when the DSSG is scheduled. It is very likely to be later than that. Does this mean we will be forced to cancel the Deep South Star Gaze too? The answer is no - we just do not know enough just yet, we do not yet know how things will play out this summer and up thru the end of October.
The Deep South Spring Scrimmage was the first scheduled annual star party held since the Winter Star Party. How could we do that? First off, our venue is private and the owner was quite willing to host us. Secondarily it was a small event. We only had 9 registrants so we could really spread out. 9 people was approximately 1/2 to 1/3rd of the numbers we normally have in the spring. These low numbers helped us in one sense but the number also showed just how concerned most are about Covid 19. We did well as so far as I know, no one came in with Covid-19 and no one contracted it while there.
Assuming that the situation is much the same in November, can we do a DSSG with typical fall numbers? Likely not, but like the Spring Scrimmage we should be able to do the Deep South with a cap placed on attendance. We would have to limit attendance in all the bunk rooms beyond just the number of bottom bunks being the limiting factor. At the recent Spring Scrimmage we used the main bunkhouse. Each side of that bunkhouse has 7 lower bunks, so we had a total of 14 bottom bunks. We limited occupancy to 4 per side, or 8 total. One person in each corner in each section of that bunkhouse. This was not a problem as two of our attendees were just day use visitors and we had one other person who stayed in his trailer. Given all the bunk rooms I calculate that we have the space, with distancing for up to about 26 needing bunk space. Perhaps a few more if an entire family cares less about distancing and they are all happy with staying together in the same room. In addition we would have some in tents, and some in rv's, campers and trailers. I estimate that we will have to cap attendance at about 50 who are staying overnight. A few more may be just day and early evening registrants and a few may be staying in Columbia at the motel there. Our attendance then may be able to be stretched to a limit of about 75.
For those planning on attending, particularly those wanting a bunk, early registration will be key, plus preference will have to be given for those registering and staying multiple nights as in 3, 4 or 5 (not just one or two nights). I will probably not have registration forms ready until the end of August/early September.
Keep in mind too that like so many other amateur astronomers elsewhere, we are not a particularly young group. Many of our ranks fit the 65+ category. I know I do. We tend to have more co-morbidities, we tend to be overweight, we tend to be on one medication or another. We have to be more careful. We need to think about and practice social distancing and we need to wear masks. If sick or suspicious of being sick, you will need to stay home.
I am keeping my hopes up that we will be able to hold the 38th Annual Deep South Star Gaze. If we do this fall's event will become the oldest continuous annual star party in the United States.
Barry Simon, Director
Deep South Star Gaze
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