It started simply enough… Donna asked for suggestions, she was looking for activities the Waikoloa Village Association could share with the community. Of course I suggested a star party. Much of our small club lives in the village, this would be an easy and fun event to put together. Al we need is a date and a place.
A date? Sept 23rd would offer a slim crescent Moon, Saturn, and the Milky Way overhead. The 23rd has the added benefit of being a Saturday.
A place? The Waikoloa Stables have ceased being a place with horses. There remains a nice lawn, bathrooms, and a large parking lot. The stables currently hosts a thrift shop and regular community events like the yearly Wiliwili festival.
A plan? Easy… Light refreshments, parking coordination, keiki fire dancers, the local CERT team for safety backup, a sound system, a speaker for the evening, and at least five telescopes for viewing. OK, maybe not so simple.
We can do this.
And do it we did. Everything came together fairly nicely. The WVA had the facility and volunteers well set-up. Plenty of folks were on hand to cover parking, food, and traffic direction. A group of local students on-hand to help move telescopes from the parking lot to the lawn.
Not everything went to plan… Despite asking around I did not come up with a speaker for the evening. Our Keck support astronomers are absorbed with the Keck Science meeting in California. The CFHT likewise proved to be otherwise occupied, just a bad choice of date. It will have to be me.
The only real trouble was the weather. Clouds hampered the start of the evening with actual rain threatening and a few raindrops intruding. As oft happens in Waikoloa the clouds relented as the evening cooled, retreating back towards the mauna and leaving a mostly clear sky for telescopic viewers to enjoy.
The WVA organization was needed! We had hundreds of viewers on hand to enjoy the evening. The lawn was filled with folks just conversing and enjoying the evening. Small groups in lawn chairs ringed the viewing area and the food evaporated.
In the end it went fairly well. Despite the clouds the very patient crowd was rewarded with planets and star clusters to view in the telescopes. I suspect we will be doing this again sometime, perhaps next year.