James and I had the pleasure of volunteering at the 2014 OzSky Star Safari a few weeks ago. Originally designated the Deepest South Texas Star Party, OzSky aims to show northern hemisphere astronomers just what they’re missing out on by living on the wrong side of the equator.
A good star party has two nearly-equal aspects: the star part, and the party part. So I’ve split my recap into two, to match.
The party part
Despite the fact that most of the observers are staying up until ridiculous times, OzSky very sensibly still organises daytime events. Partly this is to make sure the non-observing partners (not just wives!) don’t go stir-crazy; partly it’s a fall-back in case the nights are all clouded out; partly it’s
because for many people, this will be their first visit to Australia, so it’s good to show off. On top of all of that, the location of the Safari meant that going to astronomy-related things is entirely feasible. So off-campus, there were bush walks, and visits to the radio array at Narrabri (picture below).
And then there was the Anglo-Australian Telescope at Siding Spring (inside, at left) which was AWESOME because they made the dome move while we were inside it which was FREAKY. (James loved the control panels, below.)
Back at the ranch, attendant experts gave talks in the afternoon – on photography and polar alignment and Charles Messier. We made a massive Aussie-style BBQ on the second night that introduced the foreigners to kangaroo meat, cabbage and noodle salad, and pavlova. (I say we, but the organisation was done by one person working all day – the rest of us helped with a bit of grunt work in the evening.) Probably the best thing for the party aspect was that dinner was available each night at the motel, so we got to sit at big tables and compare cultures. We discussed drop bears and education; politics and triathlons; guns and history; accents and the singularity. It was intriguing to spend a week with people brought together by one consuming passion, and then find all the ways in which we diverged.
The view from the railing on the outside of the Anglo-Australian Telescope