Terra Nova

Tom Mrozewksi heads off to the sixth annual Star-B-Q and finally uses his telescope for its intended purpose.

Some of you will need no encouragement to spend a couple nights camping out and stargazing with a bunch of amateur astronomers. But for those who do, I have but this to say: local Royal Astronomical Society of Canada president Chris Stephenson is by far the most entertaining and engaging interview of my brief Scope tenure. He’s also the only one to break out into song on the phone.

The RASC St. John’s chapter is hosting its annual Star-B-Q (or Star Party) from July 28-30 at Butterpot Park. For over 20 years it has been the chapter’s big party, where members of the general public can come out and join seasoned veterans for a couple evenings of stargazing and merrymaking. You can camp out for free but it’ll cost you $5 to park your car.

Everyone is welcome. RASC members are happy to help out neophytes with the basics of stargazing. Quality observation doesn’t depend on going to buy the biggest telescope you can find. Says Stephenson, "with a pair of good binoculars and a star chart you’ll never run out of things to look at." However, there will be some more substantial hardware on hand for guests to take a peek into.

Butterpot Park is a fine spot to see the stars, especially considering its proximity to the city. Though not technically pitch-black, it is free enough of light pollution that almost the entire naked-eye spectrum of stars will be visible from the park.

The Star-B-Q starts Friday night with some observations. On Saturday morning there will be a nature hike and solar observation a little later. Filters will be on hand – Stephenson says that one member even has a telescope that can see solar flare activity.

For dinner, don’t let the name "Star-B-Q" mislead you: you’ll have to BYO-B-Q or BYO-PB sandwiches all weekend. However, after the dinner break there will be a campfire, songs, and peculiar astronomy-related entertainment. That night, of course, there will be more stargazing.

Star Party Weekend, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Telescope workshop for newbies (afternoon) & dark sky observation of planets & stars (night), Sunday morning solar observing, $5 park fee, Butterpot Park