If the clouds break unexpectedly in the Puget Sound area and conditions are right for some astronomical observing, Jon Bearscove is always ready to roll. Bearscove, the proprietor of the Galileo Astronomy Unclub, has created what he calls a “Star Party in a Box.”
“Star Party in a box is always ready, it’s lightweight and durable, inexpensive, multi-use like a Swiss Army Knife, and I like things made in the USA,” Bearcove says. The box is always packed with his essentials for a good night of observing.
The key to the kit is the box itself. Bearscove recently found a new product from Rubbermaid–he swears he doesn’t work for the company–that is perfect for the task. The Rubbermaid medium access storage tote has a handy front door that swings down and allows easy access to all of the stuff inside.
Here’s what’s always in the Star Party in a Box:
- Star charts
- Two red flashlights
- Cold weather hat and gloves
- Coleman BlackCat heater and gas
- Thermacell mosquito repeller
- Emergency kit with ham radio
- Sterilight latch box and Mainstays wire stacking shelf for organization
The heater is a nice touch that many amateur astronomers don’t think about when headed to the field.
“I’ll keep it down by my feet, outside in the open, so while I’m sitting at my table looking through my star charts, I’ve got a little heat source,” Bearscove says. “That catalytic heater will run seven hours on one little tank of gas.”
The ham radio is also a great idea. Bearscove is a licensed ham operator, but notes that even those unlicensed can use the devices in life or death situations. As star parties are sometimes held at remote locations, this can come in handy in an emergency.
“I can communicate with people where cell phones don’t work,” Bearscove says.
When all that gear is unpacked and in use, Bearscove notes that the box itself is iPad compatible. He puts his in the box while observing, and it serves as a shield that prevents stray light from the device from bothering other observers. Oddly enough, Bearscove finds that many apps designed for astronomy uses can also ruin your night vision–the greatest sin committed at star parties.
“Enjoy your mobile apps in the field,” he says. “There are a lot of ways you can mitigate the problems that they create if you’re careful.”
Want to build your own Star Party in a Box? Click the Amazon items below to go to get the same gear Bearscove uses in the original! Don’t forget to bring the telescope, too, when you head out to your next star party!