I'm back from the Chiefland star party, and about a week behind on everything else now. I thought a blog on the event was in order while the week was still fresh in my mind and before I bury myself in code slinging and debugging.
I've been to this annual Florida star party for the last three years, and it is a good sign for our industry to see the star party rebounding this year. Attendance was the highest I've experienced (not quite 200 or so), and there was a very strong vendor presence with about 10 or so vendors including myself. The return of on-site food service was also a great star party perk (who hasn't wanted a cheeseburger at 2 a.m. while imaging all night?).
I setup a canopy and a Paramount MYT in the vendor area and met a lot of customers and potential customers. On display was the "Raspberry Sky" running the MYT, Camera, etc. I showed off how to polar align during the daytime, and the new accurate polar alignment feature in TheSkyX Pro. Some Paramount owners after seeing the demonstration went back and realigned their mounts "just because"! I also gave a talk on "Mobile Imaging with a Paramount". This was a bit of a play on words as I talked about portable imaging, but also about half the talk was about the SkyBox project, TheSky HD, and portable power options for the Paramount. Tim Kahn from the Winter Star Party was in attendance and asked for a full presentation on SkyBox/Raspberry Sky at WSP this year. Sign up now if you want an hour long discourse on this exciting development at Software Bisque! I'll of course also be there demonstrating it in action under the skies.
The real magic was on the other field away from the vendor area. I setup a camp site with the MX+ and the ME II, and was surrounded by 8 other Paramounts. "Paramount Alley" had 10 Paramounts all in one spot, and there were another two Paramounts elsewhere on the field. In all, that's 12 Paramounts. Other than our Paramount Workshop out west I don't know if there has ever been a "regular" star party with so many portable Paramount users all in one place. The total break down was 5 MYT's, 5 MX's (both MX and MX+), one ME II, and an original ME. To be fair, the ME was in an observatory right next to where we were all camped out... but it still counts! This was simply extraordinary, and a special occurrence for me. Many here were also personal friends, and one friend even was imaging with a competitors "White Mount". Dean makes a mean White Russian too, and is always welcome to the group! :-)
Trying to spread out between two locations was probably a logistical mistake, but I managed and got to make house calls from site to site working on guiding, TPoint, focusing, etc. It was a great and positive experience, and I took a lot of notes about feature requests, and common challenges we came across over the week. I was too busy to focus on my own imaging setups to compete in the imaging contest, but I'm pleased to report that Jon Talbot, a Paramount MYT owner won the wide field astrophotography contest with his image of the Cave Nebula. About half the Paramount crowd was guding, and half unguided. Jon used ProTrack and shot 10 minute unguided subs over two nights for this excellent winning photograph. This small cropping doesn't do the full image justice! He's also pretty good at PixInsight, and that probably didn't hurt too much either ;-)
Next are the holidays, and some serious R&D time as imaging season/weather returns to Florida. I plan to spend as much time as possible down at my dark sky site, and I'll be ready and excited for the Winter Star Party in February! See you there.
11-17-2015 10:58 AM