On Friday afternoon, I packed everything I thought I might need into my little Toyota Corolla and drove out to Metchosin for a weekend of camping under the stars. There were a lot of people already set up by the time I got there, but I was lucky enough to find a nice spot to view the southern sky from. I was glad that I’d packed an extra long extension cord to the power supply, to keep the heater going for my telescope. Even though the event was free this year for campers, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada were still doing ticket draws for door prizes, before the evening lectures began. Friday night’s speaker was Doctor Kavelaars, a senior researcher from the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics. He gave a lecture about CASTOR, the Canadian led project to build a UV capable telescope to take over from Hubble. That night the conditions for observing were nearly perfect, although the wind picked up in the early morning hours. Even a week after the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, there were still enough to be seen in the dark site conditions to keep people looking up.
On Saturday, we had a series of workshops during the day led by some experienced members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. David Lee gave a lecture on spectroscopy (observing and recording the spectrum of stars), while Nelson Walker gave a talk on astronomy observing lists and awards. That evening, Doctor Cassandra Fallscheer (also from the Herzberg Institute) gave a lecture on space junk. The weather that evening was also junk. Clouds covered the sky, leaving only a few small, brief pockets of clear sky (sometimes called ‘sucker pockets’ by amateur astronomers). With the clouds and threat of rain showers, nobody had a telescope exposed for the nightly telescope walk. The weather reports from Environment Canada indicated that the sky would clear up after midnight, so a lot of people stuck it out. Some went to bed to get some sleep to prepare for a late night of star gazing. The clouds cleared up, right on schedule, but they were unfortunately accompanied by strong winds that made telescope use difficult.
The yearly Metchosin Star Party was well attended and well run. Not much could be done about the weather on Saturday, but Friday night’s weather was nearly perfect. It was unfortunate, given the clear skies we had been enjoying here in the Greater Victoria area for the week leading up the Star Party. The next big star party for amateur astronomers in British Columbia will be the Merritt Star Party (September 8-15th).