This Week:
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Natural Astronomy
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Astronomy is the oldest science. It addresses humanity's place in the universe by direct observation with no need for complex theories. Eastern Oregon is one of the finest places on earth to experience all this. Eastern Oregon possesses some of the clearest air and darkest skies in the United States. I want to take advantage of this by organizing a twilight to dawn natural astronomy campout in the blue mountains of Oregon this summer. Each year there are numerous star parties in many places throughout this country but we hope to do something different here. \"Natural astronomy\" means astronomy as much like the experience of the first astronomers as we can get in our time. Ancient people used only human senses to examine the night sky the whole night through and then tried to make sense of what they saw. Our modern world has become an endless series of ever more insistent distractions and we want to set aside a day or two to do completely the opposite. This campout will be beyond reach of the internet or most cell phones. Viewing the sky unassisted puts one face to face with the universe, complete and entire. Telescopes and their like may enlarge distant objects but they create a barrier as well. And once we start down that road, it never ends. No matter how good the equipment, if it were bigger or better, I could see more. And then, no matter how good my equipment, it will never equal Hubble or the institutional observatories on earth. And even there most of the pictures we see are not what a human eye at the objective lens would see but an highly processed artifact sometimes with completely artificial colors or representations of wavelengths which will be forever invisible to human eyes. I am not denigrating this. All this probing of the farthest reaches and using transhuman sensors add to our knowledge and expand our mental universe. But we are seeking another path. We know of some excellent campsites almost entirely free of artificial light. Participants get a campsite with the usual amenities, an evening meal a midnight supper and breakfast. I hope to get some speakers on ancient astronomy. If I can, a member of a local tribe who could speak on native American astronomy but I can't make any promises at this point. Cost would be around $100/person and getting to and from Grant County Oregon would be your business. A number of extensions are possible. The sites I have in mind would in one case be next door to the John Day Fossil Beds and in the other, hiking distance to the largest single organism on earth. Some other interesting projects are possible such as a scale model of the solar system (we would have enough room for a good one) an orrery where every element stayed aligned with its real equivalent (I have some thoughts on this) and a Foucault's pendulum in the woods. The part I am unsure of yet is the best date(s). Eastern Oregon is desert so overcast are not the norm but they are possible and even rain is always a possibility. The later in the summer, the better the odds of clear skies up to September. Even in the worst case, shifting by one day or forty miles is often enough to find clear skies again. I'm thinking that the night of a meteor shower could be a good choice or any new moon. It would not surprise me if there were some good options I have not considered. We do not discourage the use of telescopes other aids. This is about opportunities, not rules. We have some very dark skies in some very quiet places. We want to put these special assets to their best use whatever that may be. Do one thing at a time
Do it slowly and deliberately
Do it completely
Do less.
thanks to That is where you come in. Do you have any suggestions for the best time to do this? Would you be interested in participating? If so, use the form on the next page to give me your thoughts and any information you want to share and if you want to be on the camper list indicate how many people in your party and we will notify you of your place on the list by return mail.