Friday, July 13, 2007

The Mason-Dixon Star Party

If you look at a map of Pennsylvania, you will find the location of the Mason-Dixon Star Party by looking due north from Westminster, MD. The site is at a small airport, with one grass landing strip and a somewhat run-down camp called, of all things, The Florida Keys. It is available for weddings and company picnics and "huts" are on site if you like primitive sleeping quarters. Be warned -- my first thought on seeing them was, "this looks like the place they found the Heaven's Gate people!" The surrounding towns are Dillsburg, Franklintown, and Wellsville, and the closest "big town" is Harrisburg.

I went for a walk yesterday morning. There is one cross street near here, and I have no idea in which direction I walked or really where I was. After a few
minutes, a car pulled over and the driver rolled down his window. "Am I on the road to Wellsville?" he asked. I had no idea, so I told him so and he drove
off. It was only then that I realized what a spectacular moment I had missed -- why, oh, why didn't I say, "Only if you don't smoke, be sure to exercise regularly, and watch your cholesterol!" Of course, he might have backed up and run me over.

This morning we were all sitting around doing mostly nothing except finishing our coffee and watching a very small ultralight aircraft circling overhead. I had been hoping to see a landing, and sure enough he did! He pulled to the end of the runway, and from our vantage point we could only see that he got out of the plane and then talked to some folks for a bit. We lost track of the happenings at that end of the runway until we heard him start the engines a few minutes later. He taxied to the end of the runway, turned the plane, started down the runway, and took off. Later I discovered he had no connection with the star party as we had thought -- he had seen the star party from the air, and only stopped to use the porta-potty set up at the end of the runway!

We have had one mostly decent night of observing, but the weather is currently rainy and fog is expected later. I did get a really good look at Comet Linear C/2006 VZ13 last night. It was quite large, with a bright core, but no tail was visible. Tomorrow is the final day (and night) of the star party, complete with picnic and prize drawings. The weather forecast is calling for clear skies!

1 comment:

Mary Persall and Jerry Persall said...

I'm sorry to have missed this one since it will obviously be the last time for group observing with old friends.