All – Below is a consolidation of the information that we sent to attendees this year.  Some of the information may be removed if it was repeated or updated in later emails.

AHSP 2016 Notes #4 for registrants                                                    August 28, 2016

5 days to AHSP2016, and arrangements are looking good. These final notes are to let everyone know last minute reminders and facts you might need.  Thanks to those who joined our telecons and suggest some of these. The definitive schedule and other information can always be found on the web site.

*** Emergency contact information

Because we are in the Radio Quiet Zone, cell phones generally do not work. Emergency contact is via landline to TMI:

Spruce Knob Mountain Center
18 Woodlands Way
Circleville, WV
304/567-2632 (days) or 304/567-2644 (after reg. hours)
fax: 304/567-2666

During AHSP, it is probably best to call 2632 at any time, because the office will be staffed longer hours. These numbers are not staffed all night. We can also accept messages at throughout the weekend.

 Getting there

You will find directions to AHSP at The Mountain Institute here . Remember to print map and directions.

What to expect

To recap some pointers from previous messages, you can find these on the website:

Other quick notes

  • No admission to the grounds before 10:00 AM Friday
  • We received a questions about using bicycles at TMI. They are fine for getting around, as long as you are comfortable driving on grassy fields and bumpy paths. Of course, this would not be prudent at night.
  • The meals provided by TMI must have been pre-ordered. Meals are served buffet style. Seating is family style at group tables. We wash our own dishes in a series of rinses, soap wash, and sanitizing solutions. There is no additional food service during AHSP, although we provide coffee/tea/hot chocolate at the main yurt in the evening. You need to get any food or snack supplies from the towns on the way before you arrive.
  • Each registrant will receive 10 free raffle tickets. You can buy more. All proceeds go to TMI. The insert in your registration packet provides the details about the general raffle, special raffle items for kids, and the limitations on the raffle ‘big items’.
  • I have a roll of 4′ wide aluminized polyester tarp material that is just right for keeping you telescope (or tent) covered and cool during the day.  You can buy some at the swap table on Friday or later when you find me (Goldberg) for $0.50/sq. ft. ($2/linear foot) to benefit TMI.
  • We received a hint that red taillight repair tape is useful for covering small, bright lights that might interfere with night vision. It is verydark during new moon at Spruce Knob, and even small lights can be distracting to others, if not yourself.


Update on events and activities

Tom Finkenbinder has offered to augment his talk with tutoring on how to use SkyNet remote telescopes. He will arrange these on an ad hoc basis.

Hands on Optics continues to be a supporter, and will be at AHSP with a vendor tent, represented by Skip Bird. In addition to Skip’s adult and kid talks, he will lead the sky tour of naked-eye objects evenings at about 8:30. HoO has donated a compact Mac to the raffle.

Pete Gural will supplement his talk on meteor astronomy with a real-time camera setup that records and displays meteors each clear night. WHile you are welcome to watch the results on the screen each night, please respect his camera setup, which will tentatively be located outside the overflow tent.

Last minute information

Late changes will be posted on display boards at the main yurt, and also at

You can continue to send any questions to

At AHSP, look for committee members wearing distinctive red lanyards for their name tags. Most of the following committee members will be there:

  • Terry Cabell
  • Elizabeth Erikson
  • Kambridge Giles
  • Alan Goldberg
  • Richard Grauel
  • Wade Hampton
  • Chris Lee
  • John McDonnell
  • Rob McKinney
  • Euro Micelli
  • Zack Panitzke
  • Arlen Raasch
  • Patricia Rostkowski
  • Kathryn Scott
  • Barbara Whitehead


Finally, we hope you enjoy the quiet beauty of the West Virginia mountains, of the clear skies, and of a great group of people.


AHSP 2016 Notes #3 for registrants

Improving your AHSP weekend

John McDonnell is again organizing mentoring at AHSP. If you have new equipment and you would like help get the most from it, contact John <jmcdonnell(at)cox(dot)net>. Preferably email him beforehand. At AHSP, you can ask one of the committee volunteers at Registration or identified with a distinctive lanyard to help find John. He needs to know what you have and the help you would like.

A few new and revised items are on the web site. Things to do on the way are here. Supplementing the camping and observing suggestions mentioned last time, you will find achecklist of things you might bring. The observing almanac for the weekend is complete.

If you have a medical condition that needs special attention, let us know at <>. The information will be treated confidentially. Examples include refrigeration for medication, providing power for a PAP, or simply having our onsite first responders aware of your condition.

Lighting control is a constant concern so that observers can retain dark adaptation throughout the night. Red filtering on light sources is one element, but a red filter does not mean that you should use lamps brighter than absolutely necessary. Remember to filter or cover indicator lights, computer screens, and PDA screens. Lights inside tents need to be controlled.

One caller at the last telecon pointed out that more cars have interior or exterior lights that are difficult to disable when you open a door or trunk lid. If expect you will need to get in your car at night and if you can’t figure out how to disable these, suggest you use a combination of red filters and opaque tape to avoid disturbing your neighbors.


Remember that there is no early camping at TMI before Friday night, Sept. 2. There are lots of public and private sites nearby if you want to extend your visit to the mountains.

Event status

Skip Bird has volunteered to lead a Sky Tour introduction to the naked-eye sky on clear nights at ~8:30. These will meet in the vicinity of the registration tent between the Red and Yellow Fields. Thanks, Skip.

Bob Traube, NOVAC’s TMI coordinator and frequent new moon observer there, reports that the road up the mountain is well graded after the rainstorms earlier in the summer. The TMI access road is also well maintained, but has its drainage dips as usual. Go VERY slowly, especially with low clearance cars (like my Prius, which does fine each year).

AHSP 2016 Notes #2 for registrants 7/21/2016

Status. AHSP is full and registration is closed. While we have no formal list and we cannot offer refunds, you can tell any friends who would like to attend that we maintain an informal waiting list., and Chris Lee will try to match someone who wants to attend with anyone who has registered but cannot attend.

Among activities with capacity limits, caving is full. The NRAO overnight observing, caving, and Spruce Knob summit hike are nearly so. The Cass RR trip and NRAO day tour have openings. If you are interested in adding any of these, send a note to

Help needed. The organizing committee could use a hand from participants in a few areas. Whether you are a repeat visitor or newbie, your help will be appreciated.

Registration & observing sites. We need volunteers who can spend a few hours helping out when participants arrive, giving them their registration material, answering their immediate questions, and guiding them to the appropriate camping/observing site. There is a website set up to make signing up easy here <>.

Sky tour. We are looking for a volunteer to give a sky tour on one or more evenings. This is an introduction to naked eye astronomy for those who would like to be more at ease with the sky, especially with the vast number of objects that can be seen in dark W.Va. The tour includes a chance to help others with what you know about finding constellations, asterisms, nebulae, and key stars, and in explaining facts, anecdotes, and stories about them.

Speaker introductions and AV assistance. We could use a few folks who can help with speakers during the day Sat-Sun-Mon, especially if you will be listening anyway.

Let me know if you can help with the sky tour or speakers at <>.

Speaking of speakers, we have a full schedule from Friday evening through Monday evening. You can see the full speaker & event agenda here.

Other activities. Ian Carmack will reprise his birding hike and Lyle Mars will reprise his geology hike. I’ll reprise my hands-on celestial navigation using the Sun, along with solar observing on the deck.

Kids’ activities this year include Skip Bird’s “Phun with Physics” and Arlen Raasch again hosting a model rocket launch (exact time is weather-dependent). Most of the outdoor activities are suitable for younger participants. Some of the talks, especially in the evening, should be both interesting and non-technical to keep kids’ attention.

More ‘stuff’. Along with the souvenir shirts and hats for AHSP 2016, there are a limited number of sky blue visors available. You can see it at .  Cost is $25; send an email if you want one.

Observing hints have been updated. John McDonnell updated his target lists, including what should be viewable from TMI in early September depending on your telescope size. We’ve also updated a basic almanac of twilight times and solar system target visibility.

Additional notes on preparation for observing and camping can be found here on the website.  Please remember that the event is not open until 10 AM on Friday! If you arrive Thursday, our suggestions in the next Notes will include nearby campgrounds or other places to stay and things to do.

Some other assistance for you. NOVAC’s mentoring organizer, John McDonnell, will try to help you with mentoring at AHSP. If you have equipment you are not sure how to use, if you are having problems getting the performance you expect, send a note to and it will get to John, who will try to find someone who can help you at AHSP.

AHSP 2016 Notes #1 for registrants


The AHSP organizing committee wants to welcome new and returning participants to the 12th annual star party at The Mountain Institute on Spruce Knob, WV. We send out a series of Notes to registrants during the summer to help assure that you have all the information you need for an enjoyable and rewarding weekend at AHSP.

What is new this year, and what remains

There are few changes to the overall AHSP plan, which has proven successful. We are taking advantage of the alignment of the new moon with the Labor Day weekend to make it easier to spend more time on the mountain.

All of the activities will be repeated, including the NRAO tour and overnight observing; hikes, canoeing and caving; solar observing; kids’ activities (including rocket launch); etc. The railroad outing will be repeated, but this year it’s the Cass mountain trip rather than the Durbin valley trip.

We have a full speaker schedule from Friday evening through Monday evening. We have both new speakers and favorites from the past. We are emphasizing topics that help you observe and help you understand the universe. Talks will include some of the latest observations from Pluto and gravity waves. The full speaker schedule is found at <>. In brief:

  • Rod Mollise – looking back at 50 years of amateur astronomy
  • John Sojka — beginning astrophotography
  • Mark Kochte – the MESSENGER mission at Mercury
  • Tom Finkenbinder — gamma ray bursts and gravity waves
  • Bob Naeye – LIGO and the discovery of gravity waves
  • Skip Bird – motivating amateurs through the Astronomical League
  • Harold Geller – an active impact basin on Pluto from New Horizon
  • Brian Ventrudo – backyard cosmology
  • Guy Brandenberg – adventures and misadventures in telescope making
  • Peter Gural – amateur participation in meteor science
  • Alan Goldberg – art & design of the Hale 200″

In addition, Skip Bird will present his Phun with Physics activity program for kids on Sunday afternoon.

With many people having Web access in and around the Yurts, Chris Lee and Zach Panitzke plan to change the front page to give updated event and weather information once AHSP starts.

We will again support informal mentoring for those who would like some help with new equipment or familiarization with observing techniques. More to come on this and observing in future notes.

Rules remain minimal, and are based on common sense, consideration of others, and best observing etiquette. See <>.

We remain concerned about everyone’s health and safety on the mountain. One attendee had a medical episode late in the weekend last year. TMI staff, AHSP attendees, and local professionals responded quickly and the result was a full recovery. We took away several lessons about preparedness. Most importantly, this was a reminder for each of us to respect the mountain camping environment (altitude, dehydration, sun exposure, exertion, caution about pre-existing conditions) and let someone know whenever ANYTHING is not quite right, before a health or safety issue gets out of hand. This includes sickness, injuries, fires, or severe weather. Rich Grauel maintains the current safety plan at <>

There are no major changes to facilities and services at TMI this year. The staff-prepared meals have remained popular.

AHSP reached capacity last week, earlier than any time in the past. Several events requiring advanced registration are full (caving, canoeing) or nearly so (NRAO overnight, Spruce Knob summit hike). You can still add activities with openings (above plus meals, Cass RR, NRAO behind the scenes day tour) to your registration by emailing to <>.



The committee can always use new blood for annual planning (mostly over now) and for several on-site needs.

One on-site need is for helpers at the registration tent on Friday afternoon and much of the day Saturday on a schedule planned in advance.

Another is for one or two individuals who can help make sure that electronic equipment is set for the speakers, and to provide introduction for some throughout the weekend.

To do now

With the event 8 weeks away, you should be thinking about the equipment you need to bring (camping and observing) to make your AHSP enjoyable and productive. Number 1 advice from the pros: DEW PROTECTION!

Shameless commerce section: While Hands on Optics has closed its brick-and-mortar store, Gary Hand and his crew remain supporters of AHSP. Skip Bird will again man an HoO table at AHSP. If you would like him to bring something specific, contact HoO directly and say you will be at AHSP.

You might also consider things to do before or after AHSP nearby or on the way. Recommendations on the web site from previous years remain pretty much the same.

Unfortunately, TMI cannot let you camp at the AHSP site before Friday.

Future communications

We will send future Notes every few weeks as we have new information to report, or as we think we can highlight topics important for planning your trip. Much of the information from past Notes has been incorporated on the website and updated as needed. For this reason, the Notes this year should be briefer than in the past.