Next couple of days we spent attending the Astrocon 2017 and enjoying some of the activities available in Casper. The Astronomical League is a consortium of maybe 10-20,000 or so amateur and professional astronomers nationwide. They hold a conference somewhere in the US every year. The conference is hosted and organized by the local astronomical society. We had one in Las Cruces a couple of years ago. It was nothing like this! Of course with an event like a total eclipse in the mix you are going to get a huge turnout. My guess is at least 2-300 attendees at this with almost as many vendors. The talks were mostly eclipse oriented but some very interesting non eclipse topics were covered as well. A lot of buzz regarding the anticipated crowds on Monday. A lot of folks sounded like they were staying put in their hotels and not venturing out. I have a reserved spot at one of the medical centers near here. Actually only a mile. I don’t see a reason to change plans right now.
Here we are! The Astronomical League conference for 2017, also called Astrocon
Dr Tim Slater from University of Wyoming is an education and public outreach specialist who gave an animated presentation on the public’s perception of the eclipse and enlightened us on some facts regarding how difficult it is for the Moon’s shadow to land where it is landing on Monday!
There are actually 2 shadows. The partial eclipse is the “penumbra” whereas the total is the “umbra”
Fred Espenak is better known to the amateur astronomy community as “Mr Eclipse”. You can check out his website mreclipse.com for anything related to imaging the total eclipse. He has photographed probably more total eclipses than anyone including events in Antartica and Libya. One of the cool things to see was video of an eclipse showing the moment of totality and the crowd’s reaction! This is something we are going to definitely be mindful of on Monday
A couple of other talk highlights:
Dr Fran Bagenal, professor of astrophysics and planetary science at U Colorado Boulder gave a very interesting presentation on the Jupiter Juno mission and updated us on new information about the planet. There is no solid core but a complex super dense hot plasma, mostly hydrogen. Amateurs and others have downloaded images of the planet taken by Juno and processed them revealing very complex structures at the poles and within the great red spot
Bill Possel, director of Mission Operations and Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at U Colorado Boulder talked about the Kepler mission which has discovered thousands of Earth like planets, at least 30 of those are in the so-called “habitable zone” of the galaxy but this is only within a 10 degree area of sky, so the projected number of planets that could very well support life can be extrapolated to be many thousand times that!
I’ve never seen so many vendors in one place since the last time I went to NEAF! (Northeast Astronomy Forum). I think at our Astrocon we had about a 1/10 this many
Casper is pretty stark but there are a couple of cool things here. One is that the Platte river runs through the town where you can do fishing, white water canoeing or bike/ walk/ run on the trail that runs along side it. The town did a great job with this! Very clean and peaceful. My wife and I walked this every morning… until Monday of course
One or 2 streets in the center of town closed off for the “Eclipse Festival” .Mostly beer, junk food and T shirts. We’re pretty much T-shirted out. A couple of happening bar restaurants. Some trendy looking beer pubs.
The day finishes up with the traditional “Star B Q” at the end of every Astrocon week, usually along with local music from the region
A little minnie golf country western style to cap off the meal! My wife won by a long shot
We both won this solar filter package door prize! I have never won anything ever in 20 years of attending meetings! Maybe a good luck sign or I should have my wife come to more of them!
And that’s a wrap for Astrocon 2017! Am I prepared? We have 2 more days to find out!
Thanks for reading!