Table Mountain Star Party seeking alternate spot for 2013

Organizers of the Table Mountain Star Party are looking for a new spot at which to hold the state’s biggest annual stargazing bash next year because of damage to the site from a major forest fire in September.

Table Mountain Star Party site

The Table Mountain Star Party site, looking north from the location of the registration tent. Photo by Table Mountain Star Party Association.

Though the area remains closed to the public, the board of directors of the Table Mountain Star Party Association recently got a look at the site along with officials from the U.S. Forest Service. A report on the association’s website and blog calls the fire damage “capricious”, with some areas of the site, including the main telescope field, untouched while other areas were badly burned. After getting a look, the board decided that it wouldn’t be in the best interests of the event, the attendees, or the recovery of the site to hold the star party there next year. The question of 2014 and beyond remains up in the air; they’ll reconsider it each year, in consultation with the Forest Service, as they watch how the site bounces back from the fire. The board plans to bring the star party back to Table Mountain “as soon as we practicably can do so.”

In the meantime the search for an alternate site for the 2013 Table Mountain Star Party, scheduled for Aug. 8—10, is under way. The board plans an online survey to help inform the process, and hopes to have the alternate site chosen by January. They’re also aware of rumors that a site has already been chosen, though the website statement flatly refutes this.

“We are facing an unknown period of uncertainty regarding the use of Table Mountain and how moving to an alternate site in 2013 will impact all of us. We believe that we have to treat the current situation on a year-to-year basis. We will continue working with the goal of returning to our site on Table Mountain as soon as we practicably can do so.” ~Table Mountain Star Party Association Board of Directors

Stargazers have been using the Table Mountain site for more than 30 years. Members of the Northwest Region of the Astronomical League began using the site for informal gatherings in 1980. By the end of the ’80s more formal organization of the event had evolved, and the Table Mountain Star Party Association was incorporated in 1997.

Watch the association’s website, blog, or Facebook page for updates.