Updated on June 13, 2017

Event Schedule will be linked here!

Of course, all events are subject to change due to weather or other external events.

Cass Mountain Scenic Railroad

Whitaker Station Run
Sunday, July 23, 2017

– Train departs at 11:00 am ; meet on outdoor deck at 9:00 am for carpools.

After riding the historic Greenbriar Valley train in 2015, we will return to the Cass Scenic Railroad as a daylight activity on Sunday. Cass Railroad tickets are for the 2 hour round trip to Whitaker Station, which recreates part of the logging tradition of the area. Definitely a family activity, for any weather. We will provide snacks for our group. Lunch will be on your own, either at the lunchroom in Cass or somewhere else of you choosing (suggestions to be provided). Those with SKMC Sunday meals who return immediately will have late sandwiches available.

Tickets for the train ride, the historical town sites, and snacks will be $35 for adults and $27 for children 4-11 (children 0-3 are free). As we were not able to reserve a car this year, we are not limited in the group size. Cass is more than an hour south of SKMC, just beyond NRAO. Depending on how quickly you choose to return, you can be back for afternoon activities and easily for the SKMC dinner and evening program.

If you haven’t been there before, the NRAO Green Bank Telescope Science Center should be open in the afternoon, with public tours on the hour.

Bob Bunge wrote in 2010: “Cass is unique and very much a treasure of mountain history and culture (much like SKMC). It has the largest operating fleet of geared locomotives in the US. One of their locomotives, Western Maryland #6 is the largest Shay type locomotive ever made.

“The trip up the mountain features steep, steep grades; at some points, there are “switch backs” where the train will stop, backup and move forward again since there either isn’t room or the grades would be too steep even for the geared locomotives. The engines work very hard up the mountain, if you are into anything industrial and enjoy sound, the combination of the different noises, the roar of the exhaust, the steam whistle and screech of the wheels is a real treat.”

Volunteer carpools will meet on Sunday morning on the deck after breakfast.  Those who wish to be at Cass for the Locomotive Shop Tour should leave SKMC by 8:15 for a 9:30 arrival. The 10:00 Shop Tour leaves from the Visitor center, but be careful to get basck to the train before 11:00! Details of the free tours around the town of Cass can be found on the Cass State Park web site. Those who are going for the train ride only should be prepared to leave SKMC by 9:00 for 10:30 arrival. Leaving in between will give you some time to explore the town around the Cass depot. If you join a carpool, plan ahead for what you will do after the train and what you will do for lunch. You might want to get a box lunch in Cass at The Last Run restaurant (“the best place in town”) before you leave. There should be no problem getting back to SKMC for dinner, programs, and observing.

Events and Speakers

Speakers and topics as of June 12. 

Items in [brackets] are tentative. The Monday afternoon program will be talks and discussion for those planning to observe the August solar eclipse.

Dr. Mike Reynolds, Prof. of Astonomy, Fla. State College-Jacksonville and Exec. Dir., Assoc. of Lunar & Planetary Observers

Friday, July 21 , 2017, 6:30 pm in the Yurt

Keep Looking Up!

Summary

That title has been my by-line since 1974, and my friend, the late Jack Horkheimer used this for his PBS Star Gazer show. So I continue to use it in honor of Jack, and what we all like to do: look UP.  I hope to give an inspirational look at looking up, which not only includes total solar eclipses, but what draws us to the beauty of the Universe.
Biography

[Michael D. Reynolds is a Professor of Astronomy and served as the Dean of Mathematics & Natural Sciences at Florida State College in Jacksonville. Reynolds is perhaps best known for his astronomy and science education efforts, from the classroom to informal education to astronomy and space exploration outreach.

Reynolds received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in Science Education and Astronomy 1990. His astronomical research has been focused on solar system objects, including meteoritics. He has led expeditions around the world for numerous total solar eclipses, meteorite crater research, and meteorite recoveries. He is executive director emeritus of the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California.

Reynolds is currently the Executive Director of  the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO), and has served as president of the Antique Telescope Society. Reynolds is also a member of the American Astronomical Society, and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.]

John Sojka, NOVAC

Saturday, July 22 , 2017, 9:30 am in the Yurt

Fun With Photons – Imaging the Night

Summary

This session is an introduction into the fascinating world of night time photography.  It will include the basic camera settings, and required techniques for imaging targets during the night with camera equipment you already own.  The session will cover camera sensor basics, so attendees can understand the camera settings and learn how and why to adjust them.  By the end of the session, attendees will be able to image objects at night without a flash, light painting, the moon, star trails, the Milky Way, and even a deep space object. 

Biography

John Sojka is a Department of Defense professional working in the realm of Space and Intelligence.   John is an amateur astronomer who had the privilege of using his astrophotography skills professionally for Government work.  His astrophotography journey started in 2010 with his office’s involvement in the NASA LCROSS Mission.  He was selected to image the plume on the moon generated by the LCROSS impactor.  Subsequently, he received the honor of assisting the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum with a successful Deep Space Imaging program for the public and has been a featured speaker at Almost Heaven Star Parties.   John’s passion for astronomy started with his father when he was a boy.  His father was instrumental in building several observatories and reflector telescopes.  John still uses his father’s home-made 10″ reflector telescope to this day.

Saturday, July 22 , 2017, 1:30 pm in the Yurt
Kevin Quin, NOVAC

Astrophotography: processing 

Summary

By a miracle, you got all your gear working at the same time, and braved six hours of mosquitoes to collect your `images.  Now what?  Good news!  You don’t have to read a 300-page book to figure out how to process your first astrophoto.  In this talk, Kevin will demonstrate everything you need to know to turn your raw images into a finished picture.  We’ll walk through each of the basic steps – calibration, stacking, stretching, and enhancement – using Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, and PixInsight.  This is intended to be a hands-on practical demonstration rather than a lecture.  We’ll post the data Kevin will be working on in advance so you can download it, along with free or trial versions of the software we’ll be using.  Bring your laptop and follow along as we process the image together.
Biography
Kevin became an astrophotographer way back in the 20th century, when they recorded on an obscure medium called “film.”  In 2003, after his neighbor’s trees all disappeared in a mysterious hurricanes-and-chainsaws episode, he started experimenting with digital imaging from his yard.  He warns everyone that he doesn’t really know what he’s doing, yet he still gets some very pretty pictures.  And what one fool can do, another can.

Skip Bird, Outreach Coordinator, WestminsterAstronomical Society & Educator, PARI

Saturday, July 22, 2017, 1:30 pm in the Tent

Phun with Physics TOO

Summary

Have you recovered from last years Phun? Has your Shrink Wrapped body finally returned to its original shape? Are people running away from you because you still have the wrapping of a mummy hanging off you? Want to try and reach the cars with your Rocket this year? Then join Skip Bird for round two, as we explore some of the more FUN ways to abuse the properties of Physics.

Biography

Wayne “Skip” Bird is a NASA Heliophysics Ambassador, and presently the Outreach Director/Night Sky Network Guru for the Westminster Astronomical Society, an outreach fanatic (definition of fanatic: someone who will not change his mind AND will not change the subject). He is also an Astronomy Educator for the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) in NC (When the transporter is working). He is the world-renowned author of “Night Flying Astronomy Bird” articles (OK, maybe world-renowned is being a little modest), and the World’s Greatest Dad — he has the button to prove it, but enough about me.

Doug Murphy

Saturday, July 22 , 2017, 3:00 pm in the Yurt

Astro-Video Observing

Summary

A simple webcam and monitor transforms observing in bright suburban conditions to a nearly live experience with an aperture many times larger than the telescopes—and in color!  Alt-azimuth telescope mounts work just fine.  The equipment required will be reviewed for both basic and more advanced setups.  Computer-control, power management, and webcasting live astro-video on the internet will also be discussed.  

Biography

Over 50 years in microscope and telescope optics; Professor of Cell Biology Johns Hopkins Medical School; Director of Imaging at HHMI Janelia Research Campus, Ashburn VA; book: Fundamentals of Light Microscopy and Electronic Imaging (John Wiley & Sons).  Amateur observer since 1970.  Ground and figured 8” and 16” Newtonian reflectors.    Currently retired.  NOVAC member since 2006.

Bob Parks, NOVAC and VOLT

Saturday, July 22 , 2017, 3:00 pm in the Tent

Talk Title

Summary

Dark sky friendly lighting has been promoted for almost 25 years and today over half of public lighting fixtures being sold are fully shielded.

With the introduction of LED lighting we now have the opportunity to completely rethink how we do outdoor lighting. The future of dark sky lighting has to be community friendly too. We will continue to promote fully shielded fixtures, but they also need to be low glare to increase visual comfort and minimize light trespass, use warm color temperature to reduce circadian disruption, and use adaptive controls to reduce the total quantity of lumens. Sky glow over cities won’t recede until we do.

This session will explore the essential elements of quality outdoor lighting design, demonstrate LED lamps and fixtures and discuss real world examples of how cities are improving public lighting.

Biography

Patricia Rostkowski, Intl. Darksky Assoc. and NOVAC

Saturday, July 22 , 2017, 4:30 pm in the Tent

Our Heritage of Dark Skies – Workshop on Advocacy and Legacy

Summary

A guided roundtable discussion of light pollution concerns and creative approaches to use at the grassroots level to effect change.

Biography

Patricia Rostkowski has been a member of NOVAC since 2007. She is currently the coordinator for the Virginia Chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), Northern Virginia Piedmont Region, and a member of the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservancy Coalition, representing IDA interests.  In addition to her own activities toward preserving the night sly environment, she is a Virginia State Parks Volunteer and a member of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Piedmont Environmental Council. Patricia’s commitment is to the environment and helping others become effective in supporting their own commitment to the environment un the community, at all levels.

Dr. Emily Martin, Smithsonian Institution Center for Earth and Planetary Scinces

Saturday, July 22 , 2017, 6:30 pm in the Yurt

[Cassini and the outer Solar System]

Summary

Biography

Emily is a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies studying the ancient tectonic history of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Reconstructing Enceladus’s early tectonic history will provide insight into how Enceladus developed into one of the few currently geologically active bodies in the solar system. Emily’s research interests are in planetary surface processes and tectonic deformation of icy bodies of the outer solar system. Enceladus’s surface has been heavily modified by tectonic features including dilatational cracks, pit chains, strike-slip faults, and normal faults. Non-tectonic processes including impact cratering and mantling of the surface by plume material have also contributed to modifying Enceladus’s surface. Determining how the preserved deformation on an icy surface has evolved provides observational constrains for models to estimate what cannot be directly measured.

Emily received her BA in physics from Wheaton College (MA) in 2006, her MS from Northwestern University in earth and planetary science in 2009, and her PhD in geological sciences form the University of Idaho in 2014.

Bill Burton, NOVAC

Sunday, July 23 , 2017, 9:30 am in the Yurt

[observing the Moon]

Summary

Biography

Dr. Myron Wasiuta, OD, Rappahannock Astronomy Club

Sunday, July 23 , 2017, 10:30 am in the Yurt

Your eyes- a users guide to visual astronomy

Summary

The talk will concentrate on the anatomy and physiology of the eye and vision and how to maximize the eyes capabilities for astronomical observing. I’ll also demonstrate the various things that can go wrong with our eyes and how to reduce or eliminate these detrimental conditions. Finally we will apply what we’ve learned to actual observation and use of a telescope. 

Biography

I am a practicing optometrist and have taught astronomy at the college level. I’ve been presidents of several large Astro clubs including NOVAC, and had observing privileges at USNO. 

Pete Gural, Analemma Society and NOVAC

Sunday, July 23 , 2017, 1:30 pm in the Yurt

[The new Analemma Society/Fairfax County roll-off observatory] 

Summary

Biography

Skip Bird, Westminster Astronomical Society & PARI

Sunday, July 23 , 2017, 2:30 pm in the Yurt

Life and Times in Gay PARI (Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute) 

Summary

Official Title-Explore the past, visit the future. With a rich heritage rooted in the nation’s space program, PARI was established in 1998 to become a recognized center for world-class research while providing STEM educational opportunities for all levels of students: K-12, undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral. PARI’s mission is to promote science and excite the imagination, to become a place where researchers can try unconventional ideas, where pure research combines with practical application, and where people can begin their education and be inspired to continue.

Actual title-Join Skip Bird, the newest Astronomy Educator, and find out what really goes on at a former NASA tracking station, an NSA spy facility, and now the only Radio Interferometer Telescopes to ever be in the path of solar eclipse totality. Journey through time and space and find out where the Aliens are stashed (and you thought it was Area 51). Explore a dark sky site that may even surpass AHSP! Boldly Go where no one has gone before; OK, maybe a few of you have gone before; OK, OK so 5,000 people a year have gone there before so whats your excuse?

Biography

Wayne “Skip” Bird is a NASA Heliophysics Ambassador, and presently the Outreach Director/Night Sky Network Guru for the Westminster Astronomical Society, an outreach fanatic (definition of fanatic: someone who will not change his mind AND will not change the subject). He is also an Astronomy Educator for the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) in NC (When the transporter is working). He is the world-renowned author of “Night Flying Astronomy Bird” articles (OK, maybe world-renowned is being a little modest), and the World’s Greatest Dad — he has the button to prove it, but enough about me.

Jerry Hubbell, Rappahannock Astronomy Club & Dir. of Electrical Engineering, Explore Scientific

Sunday, July 23 , 2017, 3:30 pm in the Yurt

Mark Slade Remote Observatory (MSRO) 

Summary

I will be discussing and showing images of the Mark Slade Remote Observatory (MSRO) during construction and operation. I will also be talking about how we operate the observatory remotely and what is involved in maintaining the observatory. The discussion will include a detailed look at the instrumentation and software installed in the observatory. I will talk about some of the science work we are doing and plan to do with the observatory. I will also be referring to my books and the support that Explore Scientific has provided to the observatory during the talk.

Biography

I am currently the Director of Electrical Engineering for Explore Scientific, LLC. I am the principle engineer heading the team on the development of the PMC-Eight mount control system. I am a retired Dominion Nuclear Instrumentation and Controls Engineer with over 35 years of experience in the Nuclear and Electric Utility business. I spent most of my career at North Anna Nuclear Power Station. I am the author of 2 books published by Springer Books: Scientific Astrophotography: How Amateurs Can Generate and Use Professional Imaging Data (2012), and Remote Observatories for Amateur Astronomers: Using High-Powered Observatories from Home (2015) both from the Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series.

Dr. Stacie Williams, AFRL

Sunday, July 23 , 2017, 6:30 pm in the Yurt

The Maui Space Surveillance Complex

Summary

This talk will provide an introduction to the Maui Space Surveillance Complex (MSSC) located atop Haleakala in Maui, Hawaii with an emphasis on the synergy created by the joint research and operational missions of the site.  The MSSC is a research site as well as an applied test bed making it the ideal environment for developing unique operationally relevant sensors and processing techniques to meet the space surveillance operational mission of the site.  One such sensor that will be highlighted is a daylight imager that provided the first resolved satellite images collected during the daytime on a large aperture telescope.

Biography

Stacie is a program director with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Previously, she was a leading scientist and science, technology, engineering and math educator at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s telescope observatory site on Maui, Hawaii. Williams led several technical efforts in the areas of imagery, spectroscopy and lasers and was the manager for the Maui site’s daylight and geosynchronous earth orbit imaging programs.  Stacie is featured in a recent film called “Maui in Space,” (12:38), showing the collaboration between the Air Force and the University of Hawaii Institute of Astronomy researchers. It highlights the Maui Island and DOD’s work in astronomy and research involving space situational awareness.  She also served as the site’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics outreach director. She was a board meember of the Maui Science Center.

Speaker, Title, Company

Monday, July 24 , 2017, 10:00 am in the Yurt

Talk Title 

Summary

Biography

Dr. Mike Reynolds, Prof. of Astonomy, Fla. State College-Jacksonville and Exec. Dir., Assoc. of Lunar & Planetary Observers

Monday, July 24 , 2017, 1:30 pm in the Yurt

[Solar eclipse observing overview]

Summary

Biography

Dr. George Doschek, NRL & NOVAC

Monday, July 24 , 2017, 2:30 pm in the Yurt

[Solar physics visible in the eclipse] 

Summary

Biography

Dan Ward, NOVAC

Monday, July 24 , 2017, 3:30 pm in the Yurt

[solar eclipse photography] 

Summary

Biography

Becca Ljungren, Phoebe Wasserman Public Observatory, SI/NASM

Monday, July 24 , 2017, 6:30 pm in the Yurt

Women in Astronomy

Summary

Explore the history of astronomy through the lens of the women astronomers you may (or may not) have heard of. By hearing their stories, experiencing their work, and discussing their impact, attendees will have a better understanding of important women in astronomy, and have the tools to advocate for their work in the future.

Biography

Rebecca Ljungren is a professional Astronomy Educator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory. She seeks to inspire life-long learners through astronomy, and most importantly, have visitors at the National Air and Space Museum become astronomers themselves. She has a master’s degree in Museum Education from The George Washington University, and her broader academic interests include the intersections between science, gender, art, and society. Her current favorite astronomical object is Saturn, due in part to the spark of excitement it creates in those that see it through a telescope for the first time.

2014 Events Archive Page – 2013 Events Archive Page

Participatory Activities

Swap Table

Friday, July 21, 2017, 4:00-5:30 pm on the Yurt deckosp_swap

Bring your astronomy, observing, or space-related items to sell. Bring your cash to get those items you need. Bring more cash for the items you want. Bring even more to get items you didn’t even know exist.

All transactions will be simply private between buyers and sellers. Sellers should stay with their items as long as they are on display.

Back Ridge Observatory Open House

Saturday & Sunday, 3:00 pm at  the observatory, or meet 2:45 pm on the deck.

Host is Joe Morris

Joe will open the observatory he has made available for SKMC’s use, on the ridge northwest of the observing fields.

Shared Solar Observing

Saturday & Sunday, 3:00-4:30 pm on the Yurt deck.

Bring your solar telescope or filtered astronomical telescope to the deck to share views of the Sun.

Hands-on Introduction to Celestial Navigation

imagesZ4LHMV5S

Saturday & Sunday, 3:00-4:30 pm on the Yurt deck.

Alan Goldberg

Learn the basics of celestial navigation using the Sun and a sextant. Use the mariner’s sextant yourself, and also this year a bubble sextant used in aircraft.

Sky Tours

[Day TBD], twilight (~9:00 pm) in the observing fields near the registration tent

Wayne “Skip” Bird

Skip has volunteered to lead the sky tour(s) this year. With sunset at ~8:30, it should be dark enough to start by about 9:00. Skip is an outreach expert. He will provide an introduction to the naked eye sky as it appears in early fall. His bio is found above with his presentation descriptions.

Outdoor Events

Canoeing OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Saturday, July 22, 2017 at 9:00 am – 12:00 n

Spruce Knob Mountain Center Staff

The SKMC’s staff will lead a canoe trip on Spruce Knob Lake. Canoes and safety gear will be provided. Depart from the Yurt deck at 9:00 on Saturday

Hike to the Beaver Dam — FULLY RESERVED

Saturday, July 22, 2017 at 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Spruce Knob Mountain Center Staff

The SKMC’s staff will lead a hike to the beaver ponds and provide a beaver ecology investigation and an introduction to water quality monitoring. Wear sturdy closed-toe shoes, and layered clothing that can be removed as you get hot. Depart from the Yurt deck at 1:00 pm on Saturday

Summit Hike

Spruce_Knob_-_High_Point_SignSunday, July 23, 2017 at 9:00 am – 12:00 n

Spruce Knob Mountain Center Staff

The SKMC’s staff will lead a hike to the observation tower at Spruce Knob summit. Wear sturdy closed-toe shoes, and layered clothing that can be removed as you get hot. Depart from the Yurt deck at 9:00 on Sunday

Birdwatching

Saturday & Sunday, July 22 & 23, 2017 at 9:00 am – 11:00 am

Ian Carmackyellowwarbler

Whether you are a seasoned birdwatcher or a casual observer you are sure to enjoy one of our two birdwatching sessions. Don’t miss this opportunity to see what West Virginia has to offer this time around.

Birdwatching sessions will occur Saturday and Sunday morning right after breakfast, weather permitting.

Bring binoculars if you have them. We will be walking through some uncut grass, so shoes (boots) that can withstand some dew may be a good idea.

Geology Hike

Saturday, July 22 2017 at 10:00 am – 12:00 n

Lyle MarsGeology walks to explore the local rock formations are just one of the many extracurricular activities available.

This is a fascinating description of the mountain we’re on followed by a hike for those interested in learning more about the geology of the Spruce Knob region. No prior knowledge of geology needed.

Caving 

Sunday, July 23, 2017 at 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Spruce Knob Mountain Center Staff

The SKMC’s staff will lead a trip to a local Shenandoah cave. After many years of caves being closed for fear of spreading White Nose Syndrome in bats, it has been determined that human cave visits are not a contributing factor. SKMC staff will lead a caving trip on Sunday. Prepare to get muddy!

Prizes!

AHSP Raffle

AHSP will be having its raffle again this year.

  • There will be one special item provided by NOVAC; attendees cannot purchase additonal tickets for this item.
  • Attendees will receive several regular raffle tickets with registration, and can buy more.
  • Regular raffle prizes are provided by sponsors and by NOVAC.
  • Extra tickets will be given to children who are attending, and which can be used exclusively to enter for items appropriate to their ages.
  • The raffle drawing will be Sunday before dinner.

[Details subject to adjustment.]

In brief:

  • Each adult registrant will be given blue tickets, which can be used for the special raffle item, or general items.
  • Each child registrant will be given yellow tickets, which can be used for children’s items, or general items.
  • Each registrant will be given red tickets, and can buy more red tickets, which can be used to enter for general items.

All events, times and dates are subject to change based on sky conditions and other factors.

AHSP Photos – Shoot and Show!

Instead of a photo contest, we will have a photo gallery for everyone’s enjoyment in the main Yurt. Once processed, bring your photos in a memory card or USB-cabled device to the Yurt, where you can load them yourself on the designated machine.  These can be sky photos, nature photos, or photos of activities of AHSP.