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5/29/2024 10:21:01 AM
Enchanted Skies Star Party 2024
Enchanted Skies Star Party,ESSP,2024New Mexico,Astronomy event,Montosa Ranch

Enchanted Skies Star Party 2024

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Freeman Lightner Freeman Lightner

The Enchanted Skies Star Party (ESSP) 2024, celebrating its 31st year, will take place from October 3-6 at the Montosa Ranch Campground near the VLA center. This new location offers dark skies, expanded amenities, and a vibrant setting for astronomers. Registration opens by July 1. Follow the official site for updates.

The Enchanted Skies Star Party (ESSP) 2024 is set to run from Thursday to Sunday, October 3-6, marking a significant milestone in its 31-year history. Originally launched in 1994 by staff from New Mexico Tech and NRAO's VLA, ESSP will, for the first time, be held at the Montosa Ranch Campground. This new location, situated just eight miles from the VLA center, offers a rustic yet spacious setting in a juniper forest typical of the Magdalena area, providing exceptionally dark skies and a host of expanded amenities.

Enchanted Skies Star Party (ESSP) 2024

The Montosa Ranch Campground boasts enhanced infrastructure, ample space for observers, numerous RV hookups, a few motel-like accommodations, kitchen and rustic dining facilities, a setup for a swap meet, and a contemporary building for lectures, all at an altitude of 7,120 feet. The environment at Montosa Ranch has been compared to the long-running Riverside Telescope Makers Convention at Camp Oaks near Big Bear, California, but with significantly darker skies.

The Magdalena Astronomical Society, Inc. (MAS), which achieved 501(c)(3) status in 2017, now stewards ESSP. Previously, ESSP was held at Top of the World Land (TOTW), an astronomically friendly subdivision near Pie Town, New Mexico, known for its private observatories and advanced Internet-access astrophotography facilities. ESSP operated at TOTW through the recent pandemic, accommodating a limited number of local astronomers. TOTW remains a popular site for Catron County star parties and ongoing astronomical development.

Astronomers regularly gather along Highway 60 for the "Astronomers Breakfast" on the third Saturday of every month at 10:00 AM at the Eagle Guest Ranch Cafe in Datil, welcoming all enthusiasts. Reminders for these gatherings are posted on the MAS news and discussion list.

Aerial view of the 2024 ESSP site

Aerial view of the 2024 ESSP site

The Montosa Ranch site was initially explored for ESSP years ago by late members Dr. Dan Klinglesmith and Bob Pody. The site's spacious expanse, affordability, altitude, dark skies, proximity to professional research facilities, and strong local amateur community make it an ideal location for ESSP to grow into a major national astronomy event. The Montosa owners, Dale and Gale Armstrong, have been instrumental in supporting this transition, with Mrs. Armstrong currently serving as a local state representative and both being strong proponents of education.

ESSP organizers are working on the registration fee structure and logistics, aiming to open registration by July 1. For further details, follow the event’s official site.

ESSP hopes to involve astronomical societies across New Mexico and the Southwest, coordinating with other events to expand opportunities for experience, education, and enjoyment. As the Albuquerque Astronomical Society's motto states, "Observe – Educate – Have Fun!"

Antoine Ribaut, current president of MAS, Inc., Charles Blaylock, 2024 ESSP Chair, and Wini Labrecque, ESSP Registrar, are leading the event. Additional program and registration details will be posted soon.


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