Northern Prairie Star Party 2024

The Northern Prairie Star Party (NPSP) will run from Tuesday, September 3 to Sunday, September 8, 2024, with most of our group activities planned for Friday, September 6 and Saturday, September 7. It is being held at the Black Nugget Lake Park located about an hour’s drive from Edmonton. The campground is also the location of our Black Nugget Lake Observatory.

This year we have ONLINE REGISTRATION for all aspects of the event, including reserving campsites, ordering T-shirts, paying attendee fees, and signing up to volunteer.

This year we are asking that ALL those planning to attend NPSP to PLEASE REGISTER IN ADVANCE – this will assist with our planning. The final deadline for registering (attendees, campsite and T-shirt) and payment is Thursday, August 15, with payment via e-transfer. The link to the NPSP registration page can be found here: NPSP 2024 Registration Form 

RASC Edmonton Centre has booked the northern part of the campground for use by star party event attendees – for use during the entire event. Campsites will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. With a limited number of sites with power, we encourage NPSP attendees wishing to camp overnight to book as soon as possible. The Online Registration Form contains an updated map showing the locations of campsites available to NPSP participants. Note that site numbers have changed for 2024!

July 11th update: As of this date, all powered sites have now been taken. The remaining available sites are non-powered. If you have not yet registered and need electricity for your RV you have the option of booking a powered campsite outside the NPSP event area in Black Nugget Lake Campground by going to their online registration page. For those who would like to set up a telescope at the NPSP site for one or more evenings, we will be accommodating astronomers and their equipment with a set-up area near the Black Nugget Lake Observatory. Confirm the location of the set-up area with the NPSP organizers at the Registration Table when you arrive.  Here is a link to the 2024 Schedule (as of July 7th) as well as the event Ground Rules.

Friday Afternoon Workshops

  • 1 to 2:30 PM Ingredients for an Unforgettable Sky Talk with Dr. Brian Martin and Dave Mussell. This workshop is aimed at the RASC EC’s public outreach volunteers but is open to anyone who enjoys the sky and wishes to share it with others. Come prepared to share your own experiences and to hear about how some of the most inspiring “sky talkers” make astronomy come alive for their audiences. 
  • 3 to 4 PM Green laser pointer certification program presented by Clayton Knoll. 

Friday Evening

BNLO tours and viewing through the 32-inch Unyk-Drew Telescope (weather permitting).

Saturday Morning and Midday Events

  • 10 to 11:30 AM – Swap and Shop table, at the Event Tent (time to be determined)
  • Black Nugget Lake Observatory Tour (time to be determined)
  • 11:30 AM to 1:20 PM: Solar observing and telescope set up and use demonstrations (in and around the Event Tent)

Saturday Afternoon Speakers

We are pleased to announce that we have three excellent speakers lined up for the afternoon of Saturday, September 7. 

1:30 PM One Hundred Years Ago, Galaxies did not Exist

Dr. Martin Connors, Professor of Astronomy, Mathematics, and Physics, Athabasca University

We take galaxies for granted, seeing beautiful images of them and knowing how remote they are. But only one hundred years ago, it was widely believed that our own Galaxy was the whole universe. The spiral forms observed were thought to be planet systems in formation. Based upon advances in diverse astronomical fields including the study of variable stars, spectroscopy, astrophotography and telescope design; in the 1920s the American astronomer Edwin Hubble made two revolutionary discoveries. Standing on the shoulders of giants, he found that what were then known as spiral nebulae, such as Andromeda M31, lay well outside of our own Milky Way Galaxy. Astoundingly, these distant island universes or galaxies were receding from our galaxy – the further out they were, the faster their radial velocity! In other words, Hubble discovered the expanding universe. In his presentation, Dr. Connors will shed light on the history, debates, cast of characters and observatories involved in this marvelous era of astronomical exploration. 

Martin Connors was born in London, Ontario, but started school in Glasgow, Scotland. He got a B.Sc. in Applied Mathematics at Western University, where he is now an adjunct professor. These studies cut short his activities in the London Center of the RASC, where he was President starting at the age of 17! His M.Sc. at University of Alberta (U of A) was on pulsars, and, after a brief stint as an Anglo in Montréal during the referendum, he returned to Alberta, where he worked on computers at the U of A and later got a Ph.D. (1998) on magnetic fields of auroras. He has worked on this, astronomy, and distance education since then at Athabasca University. His book Invisible Solar System just came out, and he is now working on a book about our Galaxy.

2:40 PM The life, death, and undeath of our Sun and other stars

Margaret Ridder, Ph.D. student studying astrophysics at the University of Alberta

Margaret’s talk will explore the evolution of stars like our Sun from birth until their death and hopefully convince you that that isn’t the end of the story. Beyond the death of low mass stars includes the formation of cataclysmic variables, which are interacting binary stars that contain a red dwarf and a white dwarf, the blazing hot skeleton of low mass stars. There are many different classes of these variable stars that are frequently observed by amateur astronomers with backyard telescopes. Other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as radio, is where Margaret’s research lies. The end of her talk will bring us to the current research into cataclysmic variables at radio frequencies. The exact way they produce this light in most cases is still uncertain, but there is growing evidence for the origins being high energy outflows called jets and magnetic activity in the upper atmosphere of the red dwarf.

Margaret is a 4th year PhD student at the University of Alberta studying astrophysics. She received her BSc from the University of Washington, Seattle, and her MSc at the University of Alberta. Her research is focused on cataclysmic variables: interacting binary stars consisting of a white dwarf and red dwarf. Observing these objects at multiple wavelengths (usually radio and X-ray), allows us to better understand stellar activity and accretion processes inside interacting binaries. Her recent work investigates the origin of radio emission in cataclysmic variables, which is still poorly understood. Margaret is also passionate about outreach and has participated in public events held by the University of Alberta’s observatory and given talks at Nerd Nite, Strathcona High School, and the Southwest Edmonton Seniors Association.

4:00 PM History of the Solar System

Dr. Christa Van Laerhoven, planetary scientist and science educator, President of RASC Yukon Centre.

What major events shaped our Solar System, and how do we know that they happened? Have the planets always been on the orbits they’re on now? Join Dr Christa Van Laerhoven on a journey into our past, where both the what-we-know and the how-we-know-it contain surprises.

Christa is a planetary scientist currently living in the Yukon. She grew up in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, went to University of British Columbia (UBC) for a B.Sc. in physics and astronomy, then to the University of Arizona for a Ph.D. in planetary sciences. After working as a planetary astronomer for several years, she returned to UBC for a B.Ed. specializing in teaching high school math and physics. She is currently the president of the Yukon Centre of the RASC.

Saturday Evening

  • 5:30 ~ 7 PM:  BBQ (burgers, hot dogs, condiments, beverages (NOT potluck)), grand prizes & NPSP group photo
  • BNLO tours and viewing through the 32-inch Unyk-Drew Telescope (weather permitting)

T-Shirts

Rick Bramm’s design for this year’s T-shirt celebrates the April 8, 2024 Total Solar Eclipse with photos taken by three RASC Edmonton Centre members. The deadline for ordering a shirt is August 15, 2024 – via the online Registration Form.

Design of our NPSP 2024 T-shirt graphic by Rick Bramm

Door Prizes

When you attend the 2024 Northern Prairie Star Party, you will receive draw tickets for prizes given out during the afternoon presentations and at the BBQ – donated by several generous donors and suppliers. We are most grateful for these prize sponsors’ ongoing support.

If you have new or gently used items you would like to donate, we would love to hear from you! In the past this has ranged from beginner telescopes, various astro accessories, books, memorabilia and astronomy-related art! If you would like to donate a prize, please contact the NPSP Planning Team at: npsp@edmontonrasc.com

More Updates

Check back on the website at https://edmontonrasc.com/northern-prairie-star-party/ for more updates. If you have questions or need more information, you are welcome to get in touch by email with the: NPSP Planning Team.

For reference, you can read about NPSP 2023 here:
https://edmontonrasc.com/2023/09/northern-prairie-star-party-2023

For further information please email the NPSP Planning Team.