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5/9/2024 11:32:57 AM
Almost Heaven Star Party 2024 event schedule
AHSP 2024,Night Owl Star Party,Events,Astronomy,Astronomers
Almost Heaven Star Party 2024 event schedule


Almost Heaven Star Party 2024 event schedule

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Richard Harris Richard Harris

The Night Owl Star Party is back this May at Spruce Knob! This intimate event, originally born during COVID, focuses on camping, food, and stargazing while saving outdoor astronomy activities and talks for the late-summer AHSP. Additionally, participants can tour the Green Bank Observatory, explore hands-on radio astronomy, and enjoy a nostalgic train ride on the Cass Mountain Scenic Railroad. Join us for an unforgettable weekend of celestial wonder!

The Night Owl Star Party registration is live! This May time event at Spruce Knob started during COVID and is the barebones sister star party to our late summer AHSP. The core is still the same which is  camping, food, facilities and observing. We basically save the outdoor and astronomy events and talks for AHSP. This gives us an additional time to be together to observe at Spruce Knob Mountain Center! 

Green Bank Observatory

GBO: Behind-the-scenes Tour…

  • Saturday , August 31, 2024 – Meet on outdoor deck at 10:30 to form carpools for noon start at GBO/Green Bank. The tour will be a “behind-the-scenes” tour, so participants will get to visit labs and the telescope control room —locations that are normally off-limits to the public!

Hands-on Radio Astronomy…

  • Saturday , August 31, 2024 overnight
  • A guided tour of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory is available to the first 50 AHSP registrants who sign up. Green Bank Observatory (while we were away, they changed the facility name from National Radio Astronomy Observatory)
  • We have arranged for access to GBO’s 40-foot educational dish on this evening. Participants will stay overnight at GBO and return the next morning. No prior radio-astronomy experience is required; GBO will provide instruction and support. Space is very limited!
  • If you’re going on the Behind-the-Scenes Tour, you’ll simply stay at GBO following the conclusion of the tour. Otherwise, you should plan to be on-site at GBO by 4:15 p.m.
  • If you will be observing using GBO’s 40-foot educational dish, you may wish to look over the observing manual before you arrive at AHSP. 
  • Cameras are welcome at GBO. In order to prevent radio-frequency interference to observations in progress, the observatory prohibits the use of digital cameras (and electronics-laden film cameras) in some locations close to the telescopes. Bring a simple film camera if you’d like to get some pictures up close to the instruments.

Cass Mountain Scenic Railroad

  • Whitaker Station Run
  • Sunday, September 1, 2024
  • Train departs at 11:00 am ; meet on outdoor deck at 9:00 am for carpools.

We are returning to the Cass Scenic Railroad as a daylight activity on Sunday. Cass Railroad tickets are for the 2 hour round trip to Whitaker Station, which recreates part of the logging tradition of the area. Definitely a family activity, for any weather. We will provide snacks for our group. Lunch will be on your own, either at the lunchroom in Cass or somewhere else of you choosing (suggestions to be provided). Those with SKMC Sunday meals who return immediately will have late sandwiches available.

Depending on how quickly you choose to return, you can be back for afternoon activities and easily for the SKMC dinner and evening program.

If you haven’t been there before, the NRAO Green Bank Telescope Science Center should be open in the afternoon, with public tours on the hour (vaccination required).

"Cass is unique and very much a treasure of mountain history and culture (much like SKMC). It has the largest operating fleet of geared locomotives in the US. One of their locomotives, Western Maryland #6 is the largest Shay type locomotive ever made," wrote Bob Bunge in 2010.

"The trip up the mountain features steep, steep grades; at some points, there are “switch backs” where the train will stop, backup and move forward again since there either isn’t room or the grades would be too steep even for the geared locomotives. The engines work very hard up the mountain, if you are into anything industrial and enjoy sound, the combination of the different noises, the roar of the exhaust, the steam whistle and screech of the wheels is a real treat," wrote Bob Bunge in 2010.

Those who wish to be at Cass for the Locomotive Shop Tour should leave SKMC by 8:15 for a 9:30 arrival. The 10:00 Shop Tour leaves from the Visitor center, but be careful to get basck to the train before 11:00! Details of the free tours around the town of Cass can be found on the Cass State Park web site. Those who are going for the train ride only should be prepared to leave SKMC by 9:00 for 10:30 arrival. Leaving in between will give you some time to explore the town around the Cass depot. If you join a carpool, plan ahead for what you will do after the train and what you will do for lunch. You might want to get a box lunch in Cass at The Last Run restaurant (“the best place in town”) before you leave. There should be no problem getting back to SKMC for dinner, programs, and observing.

Folks that are on the Sunday meal plan will given their food for lunch by EL staff before you leave for the trip. Please seek out information from the coordinators on the Yurt Deck.

Participatory Activities

Participatory Activities

Swap Table

  • Friday, August 30, 2024, 4:00-5:30 pm on the Yurt deckosp_swap
  • Bring your astronomy, observing, or space-related items to sell. Bring your cash to get those items you need. Bring more cash for the items you want. Bring even more to get items you didn’t even know exist.
  • All transactions will be simply private between buyers and sellers. Sellers should stay with their items as long as they are on display.

Back Ridge Observatory Open House

  • Saturday & Sunday, 3:00 pm at  the observatory, or meet 2:45 pm on the deck.
  • Host is Joe Morris
  • Joe will open the observatory he has made available for SKMC’s use, on the ridge northwest of the observing fields.

Shared Solar Observing

  • Saturday & Sunday, 3:00-4:30 pm on the Yurt deck.
  • Bring your solar telescope or filtered astronomical telescope to the deck to share views of the Sun.

Sky Tours

  • Fri., Sat., twilight (~8:00 pm) in the observing fields near the registration tent
  • Wayne “Skip” Bird
  • Skip has volunteered to lead the sky tour(s) this year. With sunset at ~7:30, it should be dark enough to start by about 8:00. Skip is an outreach expert. He will provide an introduction to the naked eye sky as it appears in early fall. His bio is found above with his presentation descriptions.

Observing 201 Part 2

  • Sat., ~9:00 pm in the observing fields near the registration tent (details to be announced)
  • Wayne “Skip” Bird, Dan Ward, & other NOVAC mentors
  • Finding easy objects in the sky with binoculars or small telescopes. This is part 2 of the workshop that begins with the daylight discussion at 1:30 on Saturday in the Yurt. Targets have been selected in conjunction with the AL’s Binocular Observing Challenge. See details under the Speakers schedule.
Outdoor Events

Outdoor Events


  • Saturday, August 30, 2024 at 9:00 am – 12:00 noon
  • Spruce Knob Mountain Center Staff
  • The SKMC’s staff will lead a canoe trip on Spruce Knob Lake. Canoes and safety gear will be provided. Depart from the Yurt deck at 9:00 on Saturday

Bike at Sweetwater Farms

  • Sunday, August 19, 2023 at 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
  • Spruce Knob Mountain Center Staff
  • The Experience Learning Staff will shuttle participants to SWFTC for a day of self-guided riding. The SWFTC includes easy, moderate, and difficult natural surface mountain biking trails that feature open meadows, mature hardwood forests, rock outcroppings, an area of volcanic activity, seven freshwater springs, headwater streams and more. A packed lunch is available for those on the meal plan. Personal bikes recommended, limited rental bikes available upon request for an additional fee. Depart from the Yurt deck at 9:00 on Sunday


  • Saturday or Sunday, at 9:00 am – 11:00 amyellowwarbler
  • Whether you are a seasoned birdwatcher or a casual observer you are sure to enjoy one of our two birdwatching sessions. Don’t miss this opportunity to see what West Virginia has to offer this time around.
  • Birdwatching sessions will occur Saturday or Sunday morning right after breakfast, weather permitting.
  • Bring binoculars if you have them. We will be walking through some uncut grass, so shoes (boots) that can withstand some dew may be a good idea.


  • Saturday, August 30, 2024 at 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
  • Spruce Knob Mountain Center Staff
  • The SKMC’s staff will lead a trip to a local Shenandoah cave. After many years of caves being closed for fear of spreading White Nose Syndrome in bats, it has been determined that human cave visits are not a contributing factor. SKMC staff will lead a caving trip on Sunday. Prepare to get muddy!
AHSP Raffle and Prizes

AHSP Raffle and Prizes

  • Attendees will receive a set of blue raffle tickets with registration, and can buy regular Red tickets at Registration and on the Yurt Deck.
  • Raffle prizes are provided by a number of sponsors and NOVAC and Experience Learning.
  • Yellow tickets will be given to children who are attending, and which can be used exclusively to enter for items appropriate to their ages.
  • The raffle drawing will be Sunday before dinner.
  • Must be present at the drawing to win!
  • [Details subject to adjustment.]

In brief:

  • Each adult registrant will be given blue tickets, which can be used for the special raffle item, or general items.
  • Each child registrant will be given yellow tickets, which can be used for children’s items, or general items.
  • Any registrant can buy red tickets, which can be used to enter for the general items (only).
  • All events, times and dates are subject to change based on sky conditions and other factors.

AHSP Photos – Shoot and Show!

  • Instead of a photo contest, we will have a photo gallery for everyone’s enjoyment in the main Yurt. Once processed, bring your photos in a memory card or USB-cabled device to the Yurt, we will load the photos to be seen on the TV Display and the AHSP website!  These can be sky photos, nature photos, or photos of activities of AHSP.


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