Connecticut Star Party 28, September 7-9, 2018
The annual Connecticut Star Party was held on the weekend of September 7-9 at the Edmund Strang Scout Camp in Goshen. This was the fourth year that CSP has taken place at this location.
On Friday afternoon, attendees started to arrive and set up their tents, campers, or stake out positions in the bunk houses. After a nice dinner in the main hall on Friday evening, Pete Kandefer gave two slide presentations, one on the recent Mars opposition, and the second on galaxies. For a short time during the evening the skies cleared, and the Milky Way stretched across the sky. Some intrepid observers set up their scopes and were able to take a look at Mars, Saturn, the Perseus Double Cluster, and a few other targets. Some meteors were also seen. Soon patchy clouds came in, but we were able to view constellations here and there through breaks in the clouds. The Double Cluster and the Andromeda Galaxy were both visible to the naked eye when the clouds parted. Later in the evening the clouds thickened, and groups of people sat and chatted around the observing field and their tents on this warm September night.
Saturday’s events included two interesting talks by our featured speakers. Karsten Heeger from Yale University spoke on the topic of “Neutrinos and dark matter: Exploring the invisible universe.” He described the mysterious particles called neutrinos which have almost no mass, travel at nearly the speed of light, and pass through everything made of ordinary matter. Billions pass through our bodies every second, with no effects on us. Heeger explained how researchers have set up elaborate detectors deep beneath the earth (including at a site in Antarctica) to observe the rare cases where neutrinos collide with particles such as atomic nuclei or electrons. Heeger also talked a bit about dark matter and dark energy, which together comprise more than 90% of the universe and are equally mysterious.
The second talk, by the well known astronomy writer Bob Berman, was on “The greatest sky spectacles.” Berman described what he considers to be the five most impressive sky spectacles one can observe with the naked eye alone. His top two were total solar eclipses and strong auroral displays. Berman gave a preview of total solar eclipses that will occur over the next 10 years and beyond, including the US eclipse coming up in April 2024. He talked about his experiences viewing auroral displays, and suggested that Alaska is the best place to observe them because of its proximity to the magnetic north pole and its frequency of clear skies during certain parts of the year. Berman’s other favorite naked-eye spectacles included meteor storms, bright comets, and a close approach to Earth by the asteroid Apophis that will occur on April 13, 2029. He also mentioned lunar eclipses, and reminded us that one will be visible over the US in just a few months, on January 20, 2019.
No observing was possible on Saturday night because of overcast skies, but throughout the day and evening, the dining hall was filled with good food and good conversation among friends old and new. There were also the ever-popular raffle, the children’s raffle (where every child is a winner), a display of the ASHN meteorite collection, a planet walk, and the group photo shoot.
Many thanks to everyone who attended and helped to make CSP 28 a pleasant and memorable event!