Jasper Dark Sky Festival

The Autumn 2013 All-Star Party

An Alberta star party in New Mexico?

Mc-Donald-Orion Rising

John McDonald photographed Orion and Taurus rising from the Painted Pony Resort in New Mexico. He used a modified Canon 6D camera equipped with 24-to-105mm zoom lens at 24mm focal length for this 30 second exposure at f/4 and ISO 2500.

Ken and Bev From who run All-Star Telescope in Didsbury, Alberta, have been organizing the All-Star New Mexico Star Party at the Painted Pony Resort near Rodeo, New Mexico, for several years. They do a great job and the location is an astronomer’s paradise with clear dark skies. The high desert makes for transparent conditions but can be cool at night. There is a hot tub to warm up in and, during the day, a swimming pool for lounging around while storing up energy for the  night’s observing. The desert is beautiful and the nearby canyons of the Chirichaua mountains offer good hiking and birding opportunities.

For autumn 2013, a special party was organized around Comet ISON’s apparition. While the comet did not fare well in its encounter with the Sun, no one complained. Comet Lovejoy was a nice stand in and there were so many other objects to see. Several of the attendees set up imaging equipment to photograph the deep sky. I usually take a mount and 80mm scope for that purpose but left them at home this time. Instead, I took my binoculars, two DSLR cameras, a selection of lenses and a tripod with my small iOptron SkyTracker mount for wide field imaging. My wife Wendy is not an astronomy buff, but after I talked her into coming two years ago she has insisted we return. She likes the walking, hiking and Mexican Train games. To make the trip pleasant we travel by ferry from our home in Victoria, British Columbia, to Seattle, Washington, and take the Amtrak train to Tucson via Los Angeles where we rent a car. We plan to do it again for the next All-Star Party in the spring.

Moon and Venus over the Painted Pony

John McDonald captured this view of the December 5 conjunction of the Moon and Venus showing through the clouds over the Painted Pony Resort. He used a tripod-mounted Canon 6D camera with a zoom lens set to 24mm focal length and combined 8 and 0.6-second exposures at f/4 and ISO 800 for the shot.

John McDonald is a retired particle physicist with a passion for astrophotography, and former president of the Victoria Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. You can see more of his fine imagery at his web site.

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