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P.O. Box 7981
Dallas, TX 75209-0981



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The Texas Star Party 2004

TSP 2004 Observing Field - Panorama from Southwest Corner Looking Northeast
(Click on Images for Enlarged View)

The great tradition of dark sky observing continues with the
26th Annual TEXAS STAR PARTY, May 16 - 23, 2004!

I attended Texas Star Party 2004, held again this year, May 16-23, on the Prude Ranch, in Fort Davis, TX, in the shadow of McDonald Observatory. I have been attending this event every year for more than 20 years. TSP and the many friends I have made there over the years is an important part of my life

I managed to get a room assignment, even though I had registered late, and left Wednesday night right after my computer class at Richland College. I made it to Abilene by midnight, spent the night in a Days Inn, for way too much money, and arrived at the Prude Ranch about 2:30 Thursday afternoon. (It's 500 miles from Dallas.) I stayed in Harmony -1, a 10 person bunk house populated by members of the Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society, of NASA and Houston. The group included Dennis Webb, who created the Arp Galaxy program for the Astronomical League. They were a great bunch of guys. It is always fun to meet new astronomers and learn about their projects.

Enjoying the Shade in front of Harmony-1

Thursday evening, right after I finished setting up my scope, it started to rain, and rained all night. Fortunately, I was able to get the scope covered securely, and loaded everything else back into the car. But I ended up with two great nights of observing, as both Friday and Saturday night were vintage TSP, perfectly clear and dark. And the side effect of the night of rain was no dust this year on the observing fields. They tell me that the early part of the week was also great for observing, in spite of a major storm on Sunday that left standing water two inches deep on the observing field. Things dry up quickly in west Texas!

12-inch Newtonian on a Big Foot Mount

Wrapped Up and Protected
from the Dust and the Rain

It's not Easy to Frame
a Shot in the Dark!

I completed all the galaxies in Virgo over the two nights I had to observe, the 24 objects remaining on my list in that constellation. Under the dark TSP skies, not only was I able to find the "faint fuzzies" quite easily, but because of the transparency, I was usually able to see the other fainter galaxies in the field that are usually washed out when one is observing closer to home. I now have only 18 objects to go, some clusters in Monoceros and Gemini, to finish the Herschel 400 program, but will have to wait until January to complete the list, since these are winter constellations. I have been working on this project since 1988!

Dennis Webb Introduces Wil Tirion

I only went to one presentation this year: Wil Tirion. Yes, that Wil Tirion, the author of Sky Atlas 2000.00, the most widely used set of star charts in the world. He was there from the Netherlands with his wife, and was a big hit. Not only was he gracious and charming to everyone, but he was a fascinating speaker, as he explained how he got interested in drawing star maps, and the various methods he has used over the years, including hand stenciled maps on drawing tables and filling in the dots with an ink pen to computer plots and Adobe Illustrator.

Wil Tirion Autographs Star Charts During TSP 2004

The line to get books autographed seemed endless, and I stood for more than 30 minutes waiting to get my personal copy of Star Atlas 2000.0 autographed. But lines offer ample opportunity to chat, and there is always something to talk about at TSP. Wil was gratified to see that my book has been well used over the years, and I am especially proud now to have it autographed by the author. I also mentioned to him that I had written a review of the 2nd edition of this magnificent star atlas, while I was REFLECTOR editor, which is still posted on Amazon.com.


Bob Summerfield
Coordinated the Book Signing

Wil Tirion
Provided the Autographs

Bob Summerfield, who was coordinating the book signing event, remarked that after signing hundreds of copies of books, Wil Tirion's signature looked exactly the same as when he started "20 hours ago!" Truly a phenomenon. We seldom get the chance to be in the presence of someone who truly matters in this world, and I was moved by the whole experience of meeting Wil Tirion.

I drove back to Dallas Sunday afternoon, after a late breakfast at the Fort Davis Drug Store with Bob and Lisa Summerfied, Marilyn Unrhuh, Debbie Moran, and Matt Delavoryas, and a final farewell to TSP 2004. I got in about midnight.

I hate being home!

Ed Flaspoehler, Dallas, TX

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The Texas Star Party is the Annual Convention of the Southwest Region of the Astronomical League,
sponsored by SWRAL and hosted by TSP, Inc.

Click HERE to Read Our Report on TSP 2003
Click HERE to Read Our Report on TSP 2002
Click HERE to Read Our Report on TSP 2001

Click HERE for TSP 2003 Observing Programs
Click HERE for TSP 2001 Observing Programs
Click HERE for TSP 2000 Observing Programs
Click HERE for TSP 1999 Observing Programs

Click HERE for AL Observing Programs to Download

The Southwest Region of the Astronomical League is made up of  28 member societies of the Astronomical League in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

Join the AAAA's SWRAL Newsgroup

Hosted by Yahoo Groups and the American Association of Amateur Astronomers

The purpose of the SWRAL Yahoo! Newsgroup, hosted by the American Association of Amateur Astronomers, is to create a forum where members of SWRAL clubs can share ideas and experiences, and just get to know each other. If you belong to one of the member societies of the Southwest Region of the Astronomical League, or just want to know more about what is going on in this part of the Astronomical League, please join us as we share ideas about our region and what we can do to encourage more communication between clubs.

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A Member Society of The Southwest Region of the Astronomical League
Bringing Amateur Astronomy to the World

The American Association of Amateur Astronomers is a member society of the Astronomical League. Based in Plano, TX, and with a worldwide membership, including 15% of its  members in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, AAAA is proud to be one of the ten largest clubs in the Astronomical League, and the second largest club in the Southwest Region.

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