Q: What do you get, if you put 60 or so people of all ages, in a field on the highest part of the lovely Dalby Forest, in North Yorkshire, with camper vans, tents and an eye- opening of astronomical equipment..?
A: The annual star camp, run by Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society (SARA).
This year marked its 13th anniversary and some of the visitors I spoke to have been regulars for many years.The fact that it attracts people from as far afield as County Durham, Hull, Huddersfield, Birmingham and North Devon speaks volumes for the friendly, inclusive, atmosphere and the observing potential at this Milky Way class Dark Sky site.
As a raw beginner, I really appreciated the help and guidance available from anyone I spoke to. Got the chance to view Uranus, Andromeda and the Hercules, Owl, Sunflower and Bode’s galaxies through the Go To scope of a neighbouring camper and had good, safe, views of solar activity through the scope of another. Learned about the legend of The Tears of St Lawrence, from Founder Member and Honorary President, John Harper and enjoyed some highlights of the Perseid Meteor Shower, with accompanying Ooohs and Ahhs from the folks further up the field! Suitably impressed by the speed and brightness of the International Space Station as it whizzed over the site and find I can recognise it in the night sky of Keighley since I got home! This is a good venue for networking and finding out about other groups’ activities and other Camps and Conventions.
Guest speakers provide an early evening balance to the actual observing (an alternative, in less favourable conditions). There is a marquee with facilities for power point presentations, but be wiser than me and bring your own chair, an hour long lecture is quite hard on the feet and legs! Talks given this year included The History of the Mars’ Rover Project; Variable Star Observation and The Hubble Space Telescope. There are trade stalls available during Saturday and various postings of Items for Sale and workshops offered by fellow attenders.
There’s no shortage of options for daytime activities and outings in the area. I took my bike and “enjoyed” some of the easier forest trails and had trips out to Pickering and Scarborough. Starfest organisers provide a folder of Tourist Information leaflets as part of the Welcome Pack.
The camping is very basic … a water tap and chemical toilets, no hard standing for showers or such mod cons, but this seems a small price to pay for such a good time and if you really must, Pickering has Public Swimming Baths! There’s an urn of hot water in the morning for an early cuppa and on Friday evening, Starfest begins with a hog roast and wine reception (veggie option available).
“A picture paints a thousand words” but I’m sorry, I didn’t take any photos, this time. I’m assured that lots of amazing pictures will be uploaded onto the SARA website in the next few days, so do take a look. While you’re at it, get the dates: 22 to 25th August 2014 in your diary and maybe we can have a KAS presence on Adderstone Field for the next event!