Thanks for registering early for AHSP2014, to take place Friday-Tuesday Aug 22-26 at The Mountain Institute. 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.

 2014 marks AHSP’s tenth anniversary. We will try to make it special for all.

Communications

 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 should go to the AHSP Website at any time to get the most up-to-date information we have. Chris Lee and others are updating the website, but retained information from AHSP 2013 may remain where new information is not yet available — the update status should be clear.

The committee will again host telephone conferences to answer questions from both first-timers and returning observers. The first telecon will be this 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 two more telecons (tentatively on Wednesday July 16 and Friday August 15) and several 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>.

Status

As of this week, AHSP 2014 registrations have filled about 2/3 our self-imposed cap on registrants. As with the past few years, we anticipate that the event will be filled. There will not be a waiting list. Some space is still available for all activities requiring preregistration.

What’s new and different

AHSP already has a full agenda guest speakers for afternoon and after-dinner talks, as well as other 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. Details will be posted as the schedule is finalized under ‘Events Overview’ on the website.

All of last year’s TMI area activities will be repeated. The popular NRAO daytime behind-the-scenes and overnight observation activities will be held. The group trip on the Cass Scenic Railroad will repeat. As was done last year, will take the short trip to Whitaker Station. That will permit participants to get lunch on their own, and to have more free time during the day — also less expensive.

The member and TMI-led activities will also return, including the family-friendly cave tour. 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, with some changes to be announced well before AHSP. 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. ‘Family radio’ walkie-talkies are again recommended for communicating on the mountain.

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 nearly done. The 2014 design picks up motifs from the designs used over the past 10 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’s  observing lists will be loaded to the Web site soon. Solar system objects will be added later.

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. Astrophotography is a likely topic for informal collaboration.

With the mountain climate, a shower is possible almost any time in August. We will provide more tips about preparedness for the weather. The best way to get at least one outstanding observing night is to plan to stay as many of the 4 AHSP nights as you can.

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

Looking forward to a successful weekend in 67 days,

— Alan Goldberg, for the AHSP volunteer organizing committee.