Welcome to the first AHSP Registrant Notes for the year. We send a series of updates to AHSP registrants through the summer. This is to highlight what is the same and what is new at AHSP this year, and to provide hints and reminders as you prepare.

For more information, always see the website at <www.ahsp.org>. We try to keep that up to date on all aspects of the star party.

Where we stand

AHSP will run from Friday morning through Tuesday morning, August 14-18. Registrations are on pace to fill the star party, with over 60% of capacity taken already. We have the same mix of camping areas for RVs (Green Field), camping adjacent to cars (Yellow Field), and the best locations for camping, with cars off to the side (Red Field) <http://www.ahsp.org/home/directions-and-location/camping-and-amenities/>. Yellow and green are nearing capacity.  Among activities requiring advanced registration, the NRAO overnight observing, canoeing, and summit  hike are  nearly full.

Apparel design has been chosen, and can be seen at <http://www.ahsp.org/home/ahsp-apparel/>. It’s a nice composite of popular themes from past years.

Speaker agenda is just about full. We have a mix of professional researchers, educators, and advanced amateurs who will entertain and inform. We have one open slot, and if you have an interesting presentation, let me know.

If you know of people  planning to come, they need to register soon at <http://www.ahsp.org/home/registration/> to have choices.

What is new

The volunteer committee has several ideas to improve the attendee experience at all levels.

Mentoring. We plan to extend NOVAC’s successful mentoring program to AHSP. Whether you are new to amateur astronomy, or have some new equipment with which you are not familiar, we will work to find another amateur who can help you get started. John McDonnell, who coordinates NOVAC’s program,  and Rich Grauel are the POCs. We’ll provide details for how matchups will be made in a future newsletter and on the website.

Telescope tour. We will be looking for proud owners who would like to show others their equipment or innovations. This tour will include examples of various telescope, mounting, and accessory  types, as well as individual amateurs’ innovations. There may be a separate tour for juniors. Details to come for this, as well.

Astrophotography seminar. Bob Traube is organizing a series of talks on Monday afternoon which will cover current topics in astrophotography from beginning to advanced. The seminar will run most of the afternoon, from lunch to dinner in the Yurt.

Meteors. While we can’t really take credit for this one, AHSP will start early enough this year that we may catch the tail end of the Perseids which peak on the morning of August 13. Our first chance at them will be Friday night August 14-15.

Evening program. We are facing the fact that we rarely (never?) have four clear nights. As a result, we are preparing some activities for the evening after the last speaker. The featured activity is an astronomy Jeopardy game created by Cathy Bunge. This will be for players of high school age and above. Other events will be announced later. We figure the more we are prepared for cloudy nights, the less likely they are to occur.

What is continuing or improved

  • The friendliness and informality of the AHSP as a  group. We have reached a comfortable size for the location, and are not increasing the number of registrations being accepted.
  • The Mountain Institute’s hospitality and available meals
  • NRAO tours and observing, nature programs, and outings
  • Durbin Rocket railroad. Instead of the Cass railroad that we have visited for the past few years, we have scheduled an excursion on the Durbin Rocket <http://mountainrailwv.com/choose-a-train/durbin-rocket>, which leaves from the town of Durbin, closer to TMI than Cass or NRAO.The Durbin Rocket follows the Greenbrier River valley, and will be a 2 hour change of pace on Saturday.
  • Other returning features: swap table, field events, and door prizes,
  • Kids events, including rocket launch and Skip Bird’s “phun physics”
  • Outstanding speakers. Our schedule goes from Friday evening through Monday evening. Details will be found on the website as titles and schedules are finalized. There will be at least one presentation each morning, afternoon, and evening.

Our speakers include:

  • Skip Bird, NASA Solar System Ambassador          NASA Heliophysics Program
  • Dr. Cathy Bunge, No. Va. Community College     Astronomy Jeopardy
  • Dr. Genevieve deMessiers, Smithsonian NASM  Alien Worlds
  •  Dr. Harold Geller, George Mason University       New Horizons of Pluto
  • Alan Goldberg, NOVAC member                            The Atmosphere: Friend or Foe?
  • Rod Mollise, blogger on SCTs and observing       Astronomy the Old Fashioned Way:  The Joys of Visual
  • Rob Naeye, former Sky & Telescope editor         
    [Title TBD]
  • Dr. Sabrina Stierwalt, University of Virginia         [Title TBD]
  • Bob Traube, NOVAC member (with others)              Astrophotography Workshop
  • Elizabeth Warner, University of Maryland           [Title TBD]


Opportunities to help


Every year, there are a few areas where we can use some help. One is for helpers at the registration table on Friday and early Saturday. Responsibilities include greeting those who arrive, giving them their registration materials, and directing them to the correct field. Contact Donna Blosser <fblosser1@verizon.net> if you can help with this.


Second, we would like to know who among the attendees has medical training. NOVAC and TMI have several folks who are trained in emergency response. We have been lucky over the past 10 years to have no serious problems. But we would like to know who might be able to assist if the need arises.


Finally, the volunteer committee can almost always use a few more helping hands, especially for setup. Contact info@ahsp.org if you can help in any way.


Communications schedule


Notes via email. We will send more of these Registrant Notes through the summer, about every two or three weeks. They will be on the AHSP web site for future reference. You might also look at last year’s newsletters, as well. One future newsletter will review what to expect, and one will make suggestions about preparations.


Registrant teleconferences. We will schedule telecons for people to ask questions and hear what is on each others’ minds about AHSP. This is especially useful for first-timers, either to any star party or to this one, who have specific questions about how to get the most out of the weekend. The first telecon will be next Wednesday, June 10, at 7:00 p.m. The phone number for the dial-in is 703 983 2020, and the conference ID is 1511516.


Let us know


If you need to add to your registration, have special needs or requests, have any questions, have suggestions, or are willing to help, contact us at <info@ahsp.org>.



For the AHSP arrangements committee,

–          Alan Goldberg