April 29, 2022

Attending Our First Star Party

Katie and Gene Hamilton

Bring Binocular News

A lot to learn as a wannabe stargazer 

I have always been interested in the stars. Almost 40 years ago I taught myself celestial navigation since most of the navigation gear we take for granted today had not been invented. Now after years of boating adventures Katie and I closed that chapter of our lives. But the stars are still up there. And that’s what we discovered attending our first star party. We learned the importance of telescope equipment like a dew heater and dew shield

Celestron  8″ Edge HD Telescope with a Computerized Equatorial Mount

After a bit of research, I decided on a Celestron  8″ Edge HD Telescope with a Computerized Equatorial Mount.  Sounds like a mouthful and it is. It came in several boxes and took all afternoon to assemble.

We packed up our new telescope and headed to Trap Pond State Park in Laurel, Delaware for the weekend.  We found a place to park the car and soon learned we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

Many folks wandered by to say hello while we set up our new scope.  Summer nights in Delaware and Maryland on the Delmarva Peninsula can produce some pretty heavy dew. So, one of them asked: Where is your dew shield?

What’s a dew shield? What’s a dew heater? These were new to us because I didn’t know these essentials existed.

We all gathered at the club’s tent for a fish fry for dinner and everyone introduced themselves. 

Getting help to set up the scope

A nice guy in a popup trailer next to us saved our night. He rummaged through his stash of stuff and came up with one of his extra dew heaters.  By 10:00 p.m. that night the telescope was dripping with dew, but its lens was dry, thanks to the dew heater. 

Dew shield and dew heater strip

The hand controller of the scope has a database of the location of thousands of objects.  At first setting it up was a bit of a challenge.  Supposedly you point the telescope north; then with the hand controller you move the scope to point at some known stars. That sounds easy enough, but you must know where the stars are before you can move the telescope to align with a star. That’s a little easier at home where only the bright stars are visible. The challenge is a dark sky is a showcase of thousands of stars overhead.  So being a fledging amateur we appreciated our new friends help to identify a few stars to align the scope.

The rest of the evening was magical with a perfect night sky. We operated the scope to go to a planet or a galaxy and it worked as advertised. 

We had a wonderful introduction to stargazing and met generous people who shared their expertise and equipment.  We went to sleep in the car looking at the sparkling stars through the windshield and remember it well.

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Gene and Katie Hamilton are amateur astronomers who follow the stars and write about their dark sky adventures. They are members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.
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