Central Star Party has been established to hold annual star parties in the central North Island for the benefit of the astronomical community of the North Island of New Zealand. The goal of the organisers is to provide a fun social astronomical gathering laced with talks, activities and telescope viewing. It is a not-for-profit organisation so any proceeds go back into making the next year’s party even better.
CSP 2017 took place from Thursday 19th to Monday 23rd January. There were over 70 attendees this year, most of them staying on site. This was mainly because of the amazing facilities available at the camp, which has a brand new hall (with air-conditioning), kitchen, meeting rooms and bunk rooms as well as powered sites for tents and caravans. The Hall has a large canopy all the way round so it is always possible to find a side that is out of the wind, rain and sun. There was also a large professional social marquee set up in the bottom field. It was great to see many old faces turn up – people who had stopped coming to New Zealand summer star parties many years ago.
The weekend began with a lazy day of settling in – a time to meet old friends and catch up. Free pizzas were provided for everyone so no-one had to worry about cooking. Everyone was then treated to a superb night of observing and deep-sky astrophotography with over 10 telescopes set up.
The Friday was a beautiful day with more people arriving. A sausage sizzle started the evening’s program, cooked in a BBQ-trailer provided by WESTPAC. This was followed by a talk on exobiology by Bethany Jones and a talk by Rolf Olsen - astrophotographer extraordinaire - on ultra-deep sky imaging. The time came again for observing and deep-sky imaging. The seeing on this night was even better than the first night and many people were still up well into the early hours.
On the Saturday the wind began to pick up. This wasn’t a problem during the day as the program of talks kept everyone inspired. The day began with a Pixinsight workshop, led by Rolf Olsen, for the many astrophotographers present. Talks followed by Gary Sparks, Graham Palmer, Simon Lowther, John Drummond and Gordon Hudson. Following the telescope trail, in which the owners explained the virtues of their telescopes, the fish and chip supper arrived. As always the Clive chip shop produced a lovely meal for everyone.
With bellies full the evening’s program was kicked off by Carl Knight. The raffle was then drawn followed by a second talk by Rolf Olsen. Unfortunately the wind had really picked up and so no viewing was possible. Time was spent socialising, watching movies and tying down tents! The night turned out to be tough on many of the tents and the poles on many of them split.
The Sunday program began with another sausage sizzle and was followed by talks by Michael Mackrill, Mike Bull, Otto Gruebl and Bruce Ngataieruai. The camp site is in the fortunate position to be close to a public planetarium so on the Sunday afternoon there was a free trip to a special show in Napier. Many people took the opportunity to have a meal out in a restaurant after. Unfortunately the wind had not died down and so some people decided they didn’t want to chance another night with tents with broken poles so they packed up. For those that didn’t there was an astro-quiz as well as an excellent documentary. By this point the wind had dropped and although the sky was not completely clear it was still possible to get some telescope viewing done.
Overall a fantastic weekend eventuated. Despite the windy Saturday and Sunday three nights were spent observing and undertaking photography. The hall wasn’t sweltering, like it was in the old hall, so the talks weren’t difficult to attend. Here’s to next year’s party!
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