Preparing for GSSP 2015

GSSP 2014 

Back to the High Country

This year's Golden State Star Party is held on the week of July 15-19 at the usual spot, Frosty Acres near Adin, CA.  I'm excited about getting out under the stars for an extended time.  Last year had the rain and clouds with a final night that was wonderful.

This year, the fun begins a little earlier as my niece Rebecca will be visiting for two weeks.  She's come out to California in the past when she had a gap year between high school and college.  During that time, she went up to Montebello for stargazing and apparently enjoyed the idea enough that she agreed to go to GSSP.

The plan is to leave early on Tuesday to head to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  We'll spend part of the day of the arrival exploring the geothermal areas before claiming our campsite at Manzanita Lake.  On the second day, we'll explore a bit more before getting back on the road for the final 2 hour drive to Adin, resupplying on the way.  I want to get our spot at GSSP before 3 pm.

Packing for Two 

Packing the Prius in 2014
In the past, I've been the only one making the trip to GSSP or Calstar.  Thus, I solved the issues with efficiency by overpacking.

Packing supplies for an additional person means that this practice is unsustainable.

Solving this challenge has been on my mind for a few months, as long as I've known that Rebecca is coming to visit.

Taking an extra person doesn't just mean carrying more clothing and an extra roll of TP.  I must bring a second chair, another sleeping bag, and more food. There's a need to entertain, too!

With this in mind, I started looking at the idea of carrying supplies on the top of the car.  After a long time of looking, I was able to get a great deal on a roof rack and cargo box for the Prius. This should allow much easier packing inside the car as it will move bulky items like the tent, cots, sleeping bags, and chairs to the roof.

To entertain, I'm bringing the SV70ED on an alt-az mounting.  This should allow pleasing wide angle views of the night sky.  I'm also bringing the setup for the big binoculars.

Astrophotography Goals

My targets for this session are a mix of digital and film.

QSI 683 + SV4

  • M13
    Transits 11:10 pm
  • Crescent Nebula
    Transit 2:30 am
  • Triple Cave (B143-4)
    Transit 2 am

There's a possibility that I might put a shorter focal length to work.  I have the widefield lens adapter for the QSI, but I've not assembled the hardware and tested it yet.  I may reserve this exercise for Calstar or a Montebello session.  It could also be used in the backyard with narrowband.

  • Sh2-27 at 400mm
    Transit 11 pm
  • M8 and the Trifid at 400mm
    Transit Midnight-Thirty
  • Pipe Nebula at 400mm
    Transit Midnight
  • Triple Cave at 400mm
    Transit 2 am
  • Widefield of Auriga, Sadr, and Deneb regions.

Film will be a mix of E200 and Acros.  Focal lengths will be 400 and 200.  I plan to repeat targets as possible.  Exposures will be 40-60 minutes at F4 to F5.6.

If I'm lucky, I might get a chance to collaborate with James Cormier to get some star fields to help fill a gap in his project.


While I don't usually go after planets, Saturn will be well placed.  I could fill a gap in the schedule with some videos of the planet to stack at a later time.  Venus will be nicely placed as well as Jupiter shortly after nightfall.

To Do List

I have a variety of things that have to be accomplished before the departure date.

I found that the focuser on the SV4 had become loose.  Thus, it will need to be centered or collimated.  I will use the laser sight and then try some imaging with the QSI to see if it fixes the streaked stars in the edges.

QSI widefield using the camera lenses.  Again, this will take assembly and testing.  Not sure if this is something that I want to do just yet.  It might be a way to free up another mount for extended stargazing and entertainment for Rebecca.

Replace the Gemini 1 system on the GM8 mount.  I've not replaced the out-of-round ring gear yet, so it won't have the best performance.  Still, with the replacement motors and gearboxes, it would be returned to the state it was at the beginning of Calstar 2014 before I had to cannibalize it in the field.

Test out dual Pentax 67 on a side-by-side mount.  There might be enough room for both camera bodies and a mini-guider.  This would improve the throughput of film for the project.