The Eastern Iowa Star Party - Part II - Yosemite

Ed Nash

The Eastern Iowa Star Party was held this year (2004) on the weekend of September 10 - 12. This was my 3rd time to this annual event held at the Wapsi River Environmental Education Center (WREEC) located near Dixon, IA (not far from the IL border). For me it is about 31/2 hour drive from Island Lake. This is a small star party with about 16 people in attendance Friday night and double that Saturday night. We set up a tent located next to the observing grounds and then drove over and set up my gear. I purchased a used Tele Vue 101 for my G11 and picked it up here from one of the members of the Quad City Astronomical Society that hosts the event.

The observing ground is unique in that it shares space with St. Ambrose University's observatory. It is two buildings close together, one of which is a small building with a roll-off roof that houses two 121/2" newts on EQ mounts. The other building is a small domed observatory with another 121/2" Newtonian on an EQ mount. This building also has a meeting room with two bathrooms and this is where all the events are held. Snacks and hot tea and chocolate are available all night. The grounds also have several cement pads with AC power for those who needed it.

This is a free star party and everyone in attendance gets a free raffle ticket for the raffles they have each night. On Friday night they gave away a Tele Vue OIII filter and a copy of RealSky CD Rom of the North and South Digitized Palomar Observatory Sky Survey donated by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

On Saturday night they gave away the grand prize which was a Hardin 6" Dobsonian, a Meade Super Wide Eyepiece, and a tripod case from JMI. There was also a couple of Lumicon $25 Gift Certificates and some smaller stuff like a Lunar 100 chart and a book on the moon donated by Sky & Telescope. As usual I was one number off from winning anything . . .

This was my first time attending. We had clear skies both nights. Previously the star party was held in October. The weather was traditionally cold and damp and more cloudy so this year they moved it up 30 days to take advantage of the Mag 5.5+ skies. The skies are pretty nice except for a light dome to the southeast from the world's biggest truck stop on I-80 some 15 miles away. On the observing field were several LX200s, some of which were doing some astrophotography and making their telltale sound of busy coffee grinders as they slewed to and fro. A huge 30" f/4.27 behemoth commanded everyone's attention with its great views of everything it was pointed at. Cecil Ward was the owner and it took him five years to create his wonderful masterpiece. Another surprising item was a new Coronado PST 40mm scope. Wow! This thing was a lot bigger than I imagined! It looked very well made. Unfortunately the sun was setting so the view I got through the trees was not a good one.. But impressive nonetheless.

This is a small party with a lot of good people and you can not beat the price. If you are a social person and love astronomy groups, then try this party. More info can be found at their website:

Published in the October 2004 issue of the NightTimes