Adventure on the edge of the wilderness in rural Montana can take on many forms…
Standing on the side of the road at 2 a.m. watching headlights creep towards us, plus getting scared out of our wits by the sound of a beaver’s tail slapping the river’s water, all in the spirit of searching skyward for the Perseids, was a precursor to the star party at Logan Pass.
What is a star party?
Well, it’s pretty simple and it has nothing to do with Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, or those Kardashian gals. And there are no refreshments served because it’s too dark to see just about anything, although you can bring your own chips and donuts like we did. I recommend plain potato chips and chocolate do-nuts because they make for a satiating taste sensation if you eat them together. But be prepared. If you are at a star party you may have to eat them in your truck with the lights off. Have some paper towels handy.
A star party is a gathering of amateur astronomers for the purpose of looking at the night sky.
We are not amateur astronomers, but we are people that enjoy looking up at the stars and dreaming about the universe. Besides, we thought that going to a star party might help us learn a new thing or two about the constellations. And what better place to gaze at the Milky Way than Logan Pass?
Reservations were required, of which I had to go through a teeny weeny bit of rigmarole to acquire, but when we arrived at Logan Pass all we had to do was tell the ranger our “special” number to enter the parking lot with the other attendees. It was a surprise to see the large turnout. Many times we’ve attended freebies and so few people have shown up, I’ve wondered why more hadn’t taken advantage of the opportunity.
A desk was set up where everyone was given some information and a light stick bracelet. We got our stuff and because people were still arriving and milling about, we took a walk out to the nature trail behind the Logan Pass Visitor’s Center. It was a beautiful and chilly evening.
Time to Star Party!
When it was time to get started, a ranger explained the details of how the star party would go. We would split into groups according to the color of our bracelets, learn more about – and discuss – the night sky. He asked us not to turn on our automobile headlights in the event we needed to leave. It would be very rude to do so, as the human eye takes 45 minutes to adjust to the dark and we didn’t have time to waste. (I will tell you now that someone left early and turned on their headlights and the crowd booed loudly. The quitters made it safely out of the parking lot, though, without anyone throwing any rotten tomatoes.)
After we heard from the precocious 12-year-old amateur astronomer (who seemed to know more about the night sky than I probably ever will), we split into groups where our designated coach spoke about the constellations and answered questions from the group. With his laser beam, he pointed out things in the sky. He did it way too fast and I could hardly spot the beam from my vantage point. But, oh well. It was cool anyway.
He said he hoped the Aurora Borealis would make a display, as it had done the previous night. I was hoping to see the swirly colored phenomena make its presence, but it didn’t. However, even though this sky is not swirly and more like rays, I am curious as to whether or not this may have been the northern lights which we saw one evening at the Kids Sports Complex in Kalispell when I was taking a picture for my 365 project.
We spotted some shooting stars, satellites in polar orbit, saw the space station pass twice, and of course ooed and ahhed about the Milky Way. But honestly, it didn’t look as impressive and milky to me as it had in the desert a number of years ago.
Telescope stations were set up for everyone to observe a particular constellation or star, and we waited in lines for our turn to take a peek.
The Party’s Over
Midnight came and the party was over…okay to turn on our headlights and go home. But before we did, Eileen figured out how to take this picture with my Canon. I was hopeless at photographing the stars.
It was a star party to be remembered…especially by David whose childhood (he was only 6) Cub Scout star gazing party was ruined by a thoughtless woman who caught him in the act of relieving himself next to a parked car.
Everywhere you look, life is an adventure!