Thanks for registering early for AHSP. We again expect to be filled to capacity for this extraordinary event, and the organizing committee is happy to have so many committed observers joining us this year.

We like to communicate with registrants over the summer, so that repeat participants will know what is new, and first-timers will have a chance to read the basics of the AHSP experience. Of course , you can go to the AHSP Website at any time to get the most up-to-date information we have. Chris Lee has updated the website, but retained information from AHSP 2012 where new information is not yet available — in most cases, the update status should be clear.

Status

As of this week, AHSP 2013 registrations were within 16 spots of filling our self-imposed cap. We should be full in the next week or so. There will not be a waiting list. Some space is still available for all activities requiring preregistration.

The committee is doing a few things to make observing field accommodations a little better than in the past

– Making better arrangement for large RVs, to help assure that they can be properly leveled, and that they don’t interfere with other observers

– Clarifying the space and layout in the Yellow lot for a car, tent, and telescope space

– Revising locations for porta-johns, water supplies, and battery shuttles around the observing fields

There will be more about these in future newsletters and on the Website.

What’s new and different

AHSP has more guest speakers than ever as part of daytime activities from Friday through Monday. We have invited favorites to return from previous AHSPs, and also invited several popular speakers from recent NOVAC meetings.

Among those who have committed are Skip Bird with a presentation for the whole family, Andrea Jones from the Lunar & Planetary Institute, “Uncle” Rod Mollise on amateur observing, Bob Naeye from Sky & Telescope  magazine, and Katie Nagy from the Smithsonian Public Observatory. These and others will give both afternoon and after-dinner talks each day Friday-Monday, and will be present through the weekend to talk with you informally.

All of last year’s TMI area activities will be repeated, with a few changes and additions. The popular NRAO daytime behind-the-scenes and overnight observation activities will be held. The group trip on the Cass Scenic Railroad will repeat. Following last year’s suggestions to make the tour briefer, will plan to take the short trip to Whitaker Station. That will permit participants to get lunch on their own, and have more free time during the day — also less expensive.  (N.B.: Those who reserved at the original price will receive a refund.)

The member and TMI-led activities will also return, including the family-friendly cave tour. Thinking of that cool water feels good on this 97 deg day in Washington.  We are also planning to organize a model rocket launch on one or two of the days — well away from the observing & camping areas, and with lots of trained supervision. Some of these activities require registration. If you haven’t already done so, you can add activity registrations by sending email to <info@ahsp.org>.

The photo contest will return, for both adults and younger participants. There will also be the same range of door prizes as last year, including at least one stand-out prize.

Conveniences

All of the familiar conveniences will be back: power, phone, & wideband data at the Yurts, hot showers & flush toilets at the bath house, home cooked meals by the staff, and more.

BTW — many of the both small and large improvements at TMI have been sponsored by your donations, purchases, and door prize tickets through AHSP.

Apparel

The shirt, hat, and other item designs are done and can be found here. The 2013 design is more centered on the Spruce Knob motif than in recent years.

Observing

Of course, the high point of any weekend at TMI is the quality of the observing.  We’ll discuss observing tips in more detail in the future. The help with your planning, John McDonnell has already loaded observing lists to the Web site here. Planets will be added soon. Comet ISON will be a morning object, but not yet expected to be impressive.

We will repeat the battery shuttle each day, to get your batteries from the observing fields to the power supplies at the Yurts each morning and back each afternoon. More to come on this in future communications.

One perennial planning notice: start getting your dew-prevention equipment ready for your telescope, finders, and eyepieces. The clear skies at TMI frequently come with a lot of dew at the surface as the radiative cooling takes hold.

If you’re a newbie to astronomy, or moving toward advanced…

… let us know what help, information, or mentoring you might need. Lots of participants like to share their knowledge, experience, and equipment hints with fellow observers at all levels. Based on what we learn about demand, we will try to hook up among birds-of-a-feather at the event.

Communications

The committee will again host telephone conferences to answer questions from both first-timers and returning observers. The first will be next Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. until 7:30 or so The phone number is 703 349 9500 and the conference code is “AHSP” (2477). This will be a great opportunity to ask about how AHSP works, or to find out what is new. Please join us.

We plan on one more telecon (on Wednesday August 24) and two more emails. The emails will include tips and facts on getting the  most out of the star party, and planning your trip.

If at any time you need to reach us with a question or comment, email us at <info@aqhsp.org>.

In the meantime, you might want to look at photos from recent years.

Looking forward to a successful weekend in 50 days,

— Alan Goldberg, for the AHSP volunteer organizing committee.