4th Annual Lassen Star Party

1997 July 3-6

From what I heard Monday morning, [Sunday] was the best of the 4 nights.

At one point, I counted 38 telescopes for 382 inches of combined aperture. I believe another scope or two may have arrived after my count. It was about the size turnout that was exected.

I barely noticed the sound of the LX's... I was so wrapped up in the amazing sight of a full-featured Milky Way, and the naked eye Messiers. It was a spectacular sky.

The obvious advantage to a place like Lassen is the transparency. It was amazing. I hit mag 15 with the 14.5" dob I was using, and did so easily (on one particular object). But, the real treat is looking at the fingers of black extending out at the edges of the glittering Milky Way. And, what a sight north of Deneb, where the Milky Way seems to have a hole where no light can be seen. The dark area there is as black as it comes. To the right, the North American, easily naked eye. Using the scope to hunt around Sagittarius, I was amazed at the number of dark nebulae embedded in the region. You couldn't help but hit it. There were times I didn't look at any objects in particular, or at all... but just swept the scope through the starfields of Sagittarius, Scorpius, Scutum, Ophiuchus and Cygnus.

Yes, [the Milky Way] is awe inspiring. It is even more so when I look at the complexity and beauty of the scene and realize what a small portion of the cosmos we experience.

I had a conversation with John Dobson last year, seeing if he was interested in coming to Lassen. He asked if the air downflow off the mountain messed up the seeing. I am beginning to think that Bumpass Hell may be a better overall location. Indeed, the seeing the first three nights was highly transparent, but not particularly steady. For dim, faint fuzzies, it was still excellent.

I will pass credit to Pat. She really did the bookeeping, made the food lists, etc. I just find it easier than her to stand up in front of people and claim credit ;-)

Temps this year were roughly 10 degrees above the prior three. It was nice all night long every night.

[for the public night] We had plenty of telescopes, but the turnout by the public was low. Last year we had roughly three times the number of visitors. One ranger I spoke with told me that holiday weekend crowds are different than the rest of the time. More "partiers" I guess.... not so interested in things such things as astronomy.

I drove home today the "long" way, through the park, just to see it again, one last time this year (I am thinking of going again later this summer!) Lassen in California's unknown National Park. It is a hidden gem. Aside from the natural beauty, scientific interest and uncrowded conditions, even the park staff is friendly.

I hope all the other attendees enjoyed themselves as much or more than I did. We had a very good group. Thanks to all for making it so much fun.

[ if the above seems a little disconnected it is because it is taken from an email reply to BA's report]
Mark Wagner; last updated: 1997 Jul 8