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Astronomers Show ‘n’ Shine

Astronomers Show ‘n’ Shine

I’m always up for a new adventure, so when I heard about the Mount Kobau Star Party (www.mksp.ca), near Osoyoos, I phoned a photo buddy of mine who has a camper van and we hit the road. Sleeping bag, foamy, pillow, camera, tripod, scope and Klutz guide, Backyard Stars.

We made a pit stop at Tim Hortons and bought half a dozen muffins. I tried the mocha with extra cream, heavy on the chocolate, in anticipation of staying up late.

“Do you have directions?” asked Diane.

No problem, I’d looked it up on the Internet. “Follow Highway 3 west to the top of Richter Pass and turn north onto Kobau Lookout Forest Road.”

We made a U-turn in Keremeos and stopped at a fruit stand to ask the owner for directions. “Never heard of it.”

You’d think there’d be signage on the highway. We headed back the way we came keeping an eye out for the two-lane forestry road. I swear it wasn’t there the first time we passed.

Cling. Clack. Crash. “What’s that noise?” asked Diane.

It’s just something loose in the cupboard I assured her. The potholes and short sections of washboard were dislodging her gear. I couldn’t imagine packing a telescope with a 20-inch mirror up this road.

“Only about 10 kilometres to go,” I said as I stepped on the gas.

“Observe the Wonders of the Cosmos,” said a sign that greeted us near the summit. Below the title was a list of skywatcher rules including “dim red lights only, dusk to dawn.” Who knew? I guess we were going to be moving around in the dark.

Before the sun set we checked out the lay of the land. Glen Peterman, from Calgary, was only too happy to give me some tips on what to look for in the night sky. He let me take a peek through his mammoth scope and showed me Venus and Saturn, and the constellation Boötes, which reminded me of the sparklers you put on top a birthday cake.

The wind picked up as the sun went down. Glen shimmied into a snowsuit. The astronomers around me were donning winter jackets, toques, ski pants and Sorels. “You’ll be wantin’ to bundle up soon,” said someone. Yeah, if I’d known I was going to be in danger of hypothermia on a summer night in the Okanagan.

Diane and I lay on a tarp, tucked inside our sleeping bags, as we watched the sky turn from brown to indigo to black. We fiddled in the dark with our cameras, guessing where infinity was on our focus rings. Counting to 30 for each exposure. Just above the horizon looking south we saw the teapot (part of the constellation Sagittarius) Glen had described to me. The Milky Way spilled from its spout.

I could get into this hobby.

Story and photos by Karen Slivar

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