Editor’s Report: Starfest Shines Again

A superb keynote speaker and mostly clear skies marked another success for Canada’s largest annual star party.

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Every August, fans of astronomy gather for an extended week­end of talks, telescope viewing and meeting like-minded friends in a dark-sky campsite park environment two hours northwest of Toronto. Organized by the North York Astronomical Association, Starfest has been part of the Canadian amateur-astronomy scene since 1982. It has grown from a handful of attendees to nearly 1,000 enthusiasts and, for many years, has ranked among the 10 largest annual star parties in North America.

One of the main reasons for Starfest’s success over the years is the consistent high quality lineup of invited speakers, ranging from ex­perts in backyard astronomy gear to international author­ities on current astronomical research. This year’s keynote speaker was Carolyn Porco, the leader of the Cassini spacecraft imaging team for the past 10 years. Porco and her team are responsible for deciding where to aim Cassini’s cameras as the robotic explorer loops around Saturn in a constantly changing elliptical roller-coaster orbit. It was a pleasure to hear about the mission directly from the person at the centre of the excitement of prying out some of the past decade’s worth of secrets about Saturn’s rings and moons.

Starfest observers 2014

Big Dobsonian reflectors, such as this impressive 28-incher, always attract a crowd at Starfest. Courtesy Terence Dickinson

After the talks, the winners of the Starfest Salon of Astrophotography were announced, followed by a draw for an array of astronomy-related door prizes, collectively worth thousands of dollars. Then the darkening night sky beckoned, as can be seen by the photos on these two pages. One of the visual highlights of the weekend was Comet Jacques, a modest seventh-magnitude fuzzball that was visible in binoculars.

Editor Terence Dickinson has attended Starfest more than 20 times since the late 1980s. You can share your comments about the Editor’s Report or anything else in SkyNews by e-mailing him at dickinsonSkyNews@gmail.com.

Check out the November/December issue of SkyNews (on newsstands now) for an expanded version of Terence Dickinson’s Editor’s Report.

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