Saturday morning September 16th and the 40th annual Okie-Tex Star party is officially over. And it was similar to the star party in 2018 unfortunately.
The Oklahoma City astronomy club has been hosting a annual star party for forty years. For the past twenty five years it has been held in western Oklahoma by the little town of Kenton (population 25?). This years event started September 8th, the earliest in September that I can remember attending. Early September is usually hot in the Oklahoma panhandle and this year days before the official start there was record high heat in the area. Friday’s high temperature was around 95 F at the camp.
The first night was clear and the sight of the Milky Way was awesome. The sight of thousands of stars in the night sky is the reason I drive out every year. I took full advantage of the night staying up until 4am Saturday morning. The sky from midnight until moon rise was pretty good but I did not see the Gegenschein.
Unfortunately that first night was the last good night I saw there. Saturday was another hot day in the mid 90s. Saturday evening we were just missed by a nasty storm front. Very light rain at the camp with golf ball sized hail reported in Boise City. I believe it as the storm clouds were a interesting bluish color. The passing storm front caused serious winds at the camp site. Unbelievably my own campsite was hit with a downdraft that knocked my scope over. Yes, for the third year in a row I was hit with a dust devil or heavy wind gust. Fortunately I suffered only minor damage and I certainly plan to be in a different part of the field next time I camp there!
Sunday was rain off and on, heavy at times. About an inch fell at a nearby CoCoRaHS monitoring site. In fact Camp Billy Joe got more rain in 24 hours than my home in Kansas has gotten for past weeks. Its seriously dry, level 2 drought at my home, so I certainly could have used the rain there. Monday was cloudy and overcast with occasional sprinkles. At least it cooled off with morning low around 60 degrees F. The forecast for the rest of the star party looked poor so I decided to leave early. Its not particularly fun to tent camp in a damp environment with no chance of clear skies. Tuesday morning I finished packing up my still wet tent and headed back home.
While I got to see a blazing Milky Way in a dark sky at the start of Okie-Tex I never got to spend the time I wanted under the stars. The weather pattern was terrible for the star party this year – just like 2018. Unfortunate and out of anyone’s control but disappointing after having spent weeks preparing for the trip.