The Equinox Star
Party - Thetford
Shortly after acquiring
my LX200, I came across an ad in the Astronomy World Magazine.
It was advertising a star party in Thetford forest. Having been
a great fan of Sky & Telescope as child, and seeing all these
amazing scopes in a field, I persuaded my good lady that it would
be a nice idea to go and camp at this forest venue for a weekend.
The site did have facilities, and we did have a tent. She said
OK, and off we went.
As I needed power to
run my LX200, and my small Toshiba laptop, I chose a hookup for
the power. On arrival there, and not knowing anyone, it appears
that only myself and an American chap Pete next to me were the
only ones in the hookup field. Either way it was great to do some
observing, and some socialising. We came away having a great time,
and having met a few new friends.
Here is the set up
in our first visit 1998. I took the LX200, and my ETX. Pictured
are my ex wife Monika, and my trusty friend Zak.
The following year
we booked the same pitch to get the power, and ran an extension
lead into the field where everyone else was, and camped over there.
I had recently purchase
a Daystar H alpha filter, and a Milburn wedge for the LX200, so
we seemed to get quite a bit of interest, and again had a nice
time, meeting up with some old friends, and getting to now a bit
more astronomy. Having the chance to peek through 18 inch dobs
was a real treat.
The LX200 fully kitted
up for solar observing in 1999, I was lucky if I got a look during
the day. The dog is there, he is just hidden whilst scrounging.
Again blessed by good weather the event was a hit.
So I managed to get
permission to go again the next year 2000, setting up as before,
but this time with the new Takahashi I had just purchased having
sold my LX200. I had opportunity to compare it with the 6 inch
of Pete's, and Nick's. Well lets leave the conversation there
shall we :-(. The 6" certainly made a difference on the satellites
of the planets, and we also had a great time trying out various
eyepieces, especially the Radians v the LE's.
The Takahashi FS128
& FCT76 on the EM10, along with Pete's Tak FS152 on a G11.
Later we had Nick's 6" FS152, and Ted had is Helios 150.
It sure was a nice night on Saturn & Jupiter.
Unforumately the weather
was not so good after the weekend, and although we were going
stay a couple of days, the good lady wasn't happy with the weather
so we had to leave early.
I enjoyed the get together
anyway, and vowed to go back the following year on my own with
the dog, and actually take time out for a proper break. I invested
in a small tent for camping in, a Kendrick observatory tent to
put the scopes, and my new mount in, and waited for the next year.
If I was staying longer, I had to be a little more prepared.
So much better prepared,
and armed only with my trustly companion Mr Zak I managed to get
a whole week at Thetford. This was great apart from the occasion
storm. Extra carrying space was required for the longer duration,
and having the two tents was a god send. One which you can live
in, and cook etc, and one just to lay your astro gear out in made
all the difference in getting images in the times when the weather
cleared briefly. One thing I did have to do was replace the Gazebo.
That went flying in the storm, and was trashed. The Kendick tent
was just brilliant.
The morning after the
night before. Well sodden, but still smiling, next move was to
Argos for an electric fan heater. Something that is with me each
year now. We actually managed some good observing despite the
odd deluge so all in all the 2001 Equinox Star Party was a great
Now left to my own
devices I decided that the if I was only going to be able to get
away for one holiday, I might as well book up a couple of weeks
for the 2002 event. Having booked early, and got my usual pitch,
which makes all the difference to my solar & lunar imaging
due to it's position. I replaced my gazebo, and prepared for a
fortnight of Rest, Relaxation, Socialising, and Star gazing. The
holiday was a hit, and didn't I need it.
It seems now that the
regular crew who come for a week or so are getting pretty organised.
Between us we manage to cover most eventualities.
The amount of Kendrick
tents has shot up, and more people are coming than ever before.
They are coming earlier, and staying longer. Things are getting
very civilised with the use of heaters, electric kettles, Barbecues,
and fine selection of wines, scotch, and beers. Observing has
increased due to the Kendrick tents, and now we know the location
of a fine local butchers the cuisine has become mouth watering
on occasion. We take it in turn cooking curries, chillies, stir
frys etc. With so many clear nights this year, it has been known
for people to comment at 0300hrs, when woken by Percy The Sleep
Warden, Oh no, It's not clear is it! Sometimes in a fortnight
it is good to sleep.
There also appears
to be a few more larger Dobsonian telescopes around which are
a real treat. This really does give me the opportunity to do some
real deep sky observing. Should the evening be cloudy, then some
people just get the guitars out, and west there to the early hours
chatting, over a wee dram, and listening to people play. Usually
Gavin & Brian. A quite relaxing way to finish of the day.
Having two tents, and
some room makes all the difference when your away for a couple
of weeks. Yes the sun lounger is mine, and yes all that does fit
in the car! Total luxury or what! Sorry about the washing line,
makes it look like a gypsy camp I guess. One does have to wash
you know, even on holiday
Here are a selection
of pictures that hopefully captures some of the variety seen at
the Equinox Star Party Thetford. Special thanks goes to Mike Cook
who organises the event with some help from his local group the
Loughton Astronomical Society. Also best I put a plug in for the
B C & F guys at Telescope House who have sponsored, and aided
this event for the last few years. Well done lads.
Some of the regular
telescopes seen in Hendrick observing tents.
Big dobs for deep sky,
and even stunt astronomers.
Full cooking and socialising
is a must. I man has to eat.
can be interesting the Astro way.
No sign of intelligent
life here Brian, what about you? Nope, can't see a thing!
Even portable home
made observatories get in on the act. A portable roll off roof
at its best.
The event is great
success in many ways, and anyone out there with a slight interest
at looking at what goes on should pop over for the day. The main
Saturday is a public day with telescope tours trade stands, and
food available. Keep an eye out in the astronomy press, or contact
the Dower House camping site, for further details.
Keep looking up.
.What's New Astronomy..General