The theme for this second AHSP registrant email is preparations for observing. But first some general planning news. This email is a bit long, but I hope you will find it informative and worthwhile.

Q&A call-in

Phil Wherry has offered to host Q&A telecons with the organizing committee this year. The first will be this Thursday, 12 July, from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. or so. The meet-me conference line is 703-703-349-9500, conference code 24772012 (“AHSP2012” on the dial). Several members of the volunteer committee will be there, who can talk about current plans and past experience.

Future call-ins are tentatively scheduled for Thursday, July 26 and Thursday, August 9, also at 7:00.

Registration and event status

AHSP2012 registrations are now above 90% of capacity. We set a limit to assure that facilities and observing fields are not overcrowded. If you have friends who would like to register, urge them to act soon!

While no event has sold out, the following are getting close: NRAO behind-the-scenes (Sun PM), NRAO overnight observing (Sun overnight), and the CASS railroad excursion (Sat), Space is available for the caving (first section is full — Monday PM has space), canoeing (Sun AM), and Spruce Knob summit hike (Sun AM).

Some highlights

The NRAO tour has been a highlight of previous AHSP’s. Beyond the normal public tour to see the principal receivers and learn the history of the site, we are given a tour of areas normally closed, including the main control room and laboratory spaces. Lunch is provided at NRAO, so that we have lots of time at the radio observatory.

A limited number of folks can stay overnight to take part in their own radio astronomy observations. Accommodations are provided at NRAO for the overnight.

For the first time last year, we travelled as a group on the 4½ hr. excursion train from Cass, WV to Bald Knob peak at 4800 ft., and to see and hear the history of the lumber industry in this part of WV.  Before the train ride, we can participate in a walking tour of the factory town of Cass and the railroad shops, where volunteers are again scheduled to be working on restoring the Cass rolling stock. We’ll have a picnic lunch during the trip.

We also have a selection of environmental events around the TMI site, including geology, botany, and birding hikes. These are not too strenuous, suitable for the entire family, and free.

More details can be found at the AHSP web site under Program > Events Overview.

Adding items to your registration

If you want to add an activity (such as caving or Cass), meals, or AHSP souvenir items/clothing, simply send an email with particulars to <>, You will receive complete information and billing in a return email.

Planning for your equipment and observing at AHSP

The most important lesson learned in past years is to have plans to protect your equipment from sudden downpours, which occur frequently in the mountains in late summer. The showers are accompanied by sudden winds, so tarps and covers need to be firmly attached, and in a way that the cover does not become a sail, and in a way that your dob doesn’t become a wind vane! The same cover will protect against occasional heavy dew. Remember to protect your tables and other observing accessories, too.

When you choose a tarp, consider something white or aluminized to avoid excessive heating during the day, if you leave your equipment closely covered.

The ground at TMI is mostly gently sloping, so be prepared to level your equipment, and possibly keep it off the damp ground and out of depressions.

Some people bring a small section of short-napped carpet to set the scope on which also makes finding something you drop much less frustrating.

We are making arrangements to pick up and deliver battery packs from the observing fields to the main yurt for recharging. Based on experience last year, we will plan to improve the marking and instructions. The basic arrangement are expected along these lines:

  • You drop off your battery at a marked area in your observing field in the AM, and mark with a provided tag.
  • We bring the battery to the 110VAC power outside the main yurt.
  • You connect the battery to your charger
  • You disconnect when charging is complete, before dinner.
  • We return the battery to the original drop-off area.

As long as your battery lasts through the night, you should not have a problem. And on the topic of power, pay attention to having enough dew-prevention heaters.

On the more uplifting topic of what to look at, John McDonnell has begun to prepare observing charts for various size telescopes. These are being added to the AHSP site. There is an almanac of solar system targets and rise/set times, including twilight. These can be found at the AHSP web site under Program > Observing.

Several participants will lead on-field demonstrations and workshops to help both novice and experienced observers, helping you get familiar with the sky and your equipment. Of course, there is always lots of informal advice by simply making friends with your observing neighbors and asking.


If you have any questions or suggestions or tips we can share, contact the committee at <>.

For the AHSP Volunteer Committee,