Events Overview

//Events Overview
Events Overview2018-08-29T10:01:06+00:00

Updated on August 29, 2018 

2018 Daily and Full Schedule (pdf) and Electronic Calendar

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

Green Bank Observatory Returns!

GBO: Behind-the-scenes Tour… — Advance registration closed.

Saturday , September 9, 2018 – Meet on outdoor deck at 10:30 to form carpools for noon start at GBO/Green Bank.

The tour will be a “behind-the-scenes” tour, so participants will get to visit labs and the telescope control room —locations that are normally off-limits to the public!

Hands-on Radio Astronomy…  — Advance registration closed.

Saturday, September 9, 2018 overnight

A guided tour of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory is available to the first 50 AHSP registrants who sign up.Green Bank Observatory (while we were away, they changed the facility name from National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

We have arranged for access to GBO’s 40-foot educational dish on this evening. Participants will stay overnight at GBO and return the next morning. No prior radio-astronomy experience is required; GBO will provide instruction and support. Space is very limited!

If you’re going on the Behind-the-Scenes Tour, you’ll simply stay at GBO following the conclusion of the tour. Otherwise, you should plan to be on-site at GBO by 4:15 p.m.

If you will be observing using GBO’s 40-foot educational dish, you may wish to look over the observing manual before you arrive at AHSP.  Here is a pdf copy of The 40-Foot Observer’s Manual.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Cameras are welcome at GBO. In order to prevent radio-frequency interference to observations in progress, the observatory prohibits the use of digital cameras (and electronics-laden film cameras) in some locations close to the telescopes. Bring a simple film camera if you’d like to get some pictures up close to the instruments.


Cass Mountain Scenic Railroad — Advance registration closed.

Whitaker Station Run
Sunday, September 9, 2018

– 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 AHSP snacks will be $38 for adults and $28 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 Green Bank. 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 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.  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 earlier 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. The Last Run restaurant (“the best place in town”) is available. SKMC will hold some lunch items for those on the meal plan who get back by ~2:00.  Those who wish should have no problem getting back to SKMC for afternoon activities.

2017 Events Archive Page  – 2016 Events Archive Page2015 Events Archive Page2014 Events Archive Page – 2013 Events Archive Page

Participatory Activities

Swap Table

Friday, September 7, 2018, 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.

Here is a list of some of the items people are offering to sell, or wanting to buy.

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


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 and aircraft bubble sextant yourself.

Sky Tours

Fri., Sat. & Sun., twilight (~8:00 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 ~7:30, it should be dark enough to start by about 8:00. 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.

Observing 201 Part 2

 Sat. or Sun., ~9:00 pm in the observing fields near the registration tent (details to be announced)

Wayne “Skip” Bird, Dan Ward, & other NOVAC mentors

Finding easy objects in the sky with binoculars or small telescopes. This is part 2  of the workshop that begins with the daylight discussion at 1:30 on Saturday in the Yurt. Targets have been selected in conjunction with the Binocular Observing Challenge. See details under the Speakers schedule. Participants should print out the finding charts found at [to be provided here].

Outdoor Events

Canoeing     — full

Saturday, Sept 8, 2018 at 9:00 am – 12:00 noon

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

Saturday, Sept 8, 2018 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, Sept 9, 2018 at 9:00 am – 12:00 noon

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


Saturday & Sunday, Sept 8 & 9, 2018 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

[Due to a professional conflict, Lyle is not able to lead this event this year]

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

Lyle Mars

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.


Sunday, Sept 9, 2018 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!


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.