This is the old page for ISFP 2014 (images of the event are here).

  Stay tuned for IFSP 2015, July 15-19 (yes, a 4th day has been added!)

12th Annual

 Indiana Family Star Party

& GREATCon 2014

July 24-27, 2014, at

Camp Cullom

A few IFSP attendees gathered at the observatory.
Pictures from last year are here.

The 2014 Indiana Family Star Party/GREATCon will be held July 24-27, 3pm Thursday through noon Sunday, at Camp Cullom, the site of the Prairie Grass Observatory, about 50 miles northwest of Indianapolis.  Sponsored by Camp Cullom (Clinton County Foundation for Youth), the Wabash Valley Astronomical Society (Lafayette, IN), the Indiana Astronomical Society (Indianapolis), the Muncie Astronomy Club, and the Great Lakes Region of the Astronomical League.

AL logo
Again this year, the Great Lakes Region of the Astronomical League will be holding an astro-quiz at 10:30 am on Saturday.
GLRAL logo


Gates open at 3 pm Thursday, 10 am Friday and Saturday.

Full Event (Thursday-Sunday) Admission Fee: $20 per person or $30 per family, if preregistered by June 30.  This includes a spot for your vehicle, tent/camper, and telescope(s) on the observing field or campground.  After June 30, or to register "at the gate", the fee is $45 per person, $55 for a family.  Click for the Registration Form.  Larger groups (scouts, etc) can get group rates with the Group Registration Form.

Single-Day Admission (Friday after 4 pm, or Saturday after 10am, only.  Please arrive before 10 pm)Only $5 per person or $15 for a carload, no advance registration required, but this does not include a parking/camping space on the observing field.  Parking for single-day attendees will be limited to a separate field on the wooded side of the camp, a few hundred yards from the observing field.  During evening hours until midnight, the camp's ranger will be driving a haywagon to provide transportation back and forth between the parking area and the observing field.   You're welcome to stay after midnight, but in that case you'll have to walk back to the parking lot.

If you want to bring in a small telescope for a single day, you can either bring it on the haywagon, or if you arrive during daylight hours, you can drive it to the observing field, and then return your car to the "single day" parking lot before dark.  But then you'll have to carry your telescope back to the parking lot when you leave (with the haywagon available until midnight).

Note if you plan to stay multiple days, but want to stay at a hotel at night, then since driving is not permitted on the observing field after dark, you'll have to move your car to the parking lot before dark.  But if you plan to leave equipment set up on the observing field overnight, you still have to pay the "full event" fee, even if you park in the single-day parking lot at night.

General Info:  Gates open at 3pm Thursday, and 10 am Friday and Saturday.  The check-in booth will be at the entrance to the single-day lot (see maps) during "peak hours" of 4pm-10pm Friday, and 10am-10pm Saturday.  During other hours, weekend registrants can check in at the info room in the Nature Center.  Note that weekend registrants arriving after 10pm will have to park in the single-day parking lot for their first night, since driving is not allowed past this point after dark.

Single-day attendees will only be admitted during "peak hours" of 4-10 pm Friday or 10am-10pm Saturday when the check-in booth at the parking lot is open.  You can stay as late as you like.

New this year:  swap meet time has been changed to 11:30 am-12 noon and 6-7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday.



Image coutesy Mike Lockwood.
This panoramic picture (scroll waaaaaay to the right) shows the observing field from the west.  There are trees to the north and east, with mostly clear horizons to the south and west.  Water, restrooms, info room, and IFSP talks are in the Nature Center shown at left (showers are at the lodge).  Note that driving is not permitted on the observing field after dark. 

For astrophotographers, deep-sky fanatics, and anyone who really wants to avoid the risk of stray light, there is an isolated area next to the pond, hidden inside all the vegetation south of the main observing field, accessible by car from the south end of the observing field.  The eastern horizon is not as clear, but the trees there also block the Frankfort light dome.  See the observing field map on the maps page for the "Astrophotographer's Corner" (Note the new path this year, from the SW corner of the observing field).

Open spaces on the observatory lawn are also available on a first-come, first-served basis, except for the concrete observing pads, which are reserved for those helping with the Sky-Trekker program.
Lat 4018'48"N  Long 8638'05"W

 Image coutesy Mike Lockwood.
Prairie Grass Observatory (scroll to the right) is located about 75 yards west of the observing field, in the middle of a field of tall prairie grass.  We have a 28" Starmaster Dobsonian telescope with goto drive, a 16" Meade LX200R Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, a 16" Meade Starfinder Equatorial Newtonian telescope, a 7" Meade ED APO Refractor, 25/40X100 binoculars, a Daystar H-alpha solar filter for daytime solar observing through the 16" LX200R telescope, and a white-light solar filter for the 7" refractor.


Thursday 3:00 pm
gates open

9:09 pm

dusk till dawn
10:00 am
gates open

10:00 am- noon brunch

solar observing
11:30 am -noon swap meet at picnic shelter

4:00 pm
single-day admission opens
6-7:30 pm swap meet at picnic shelter

6:15 pm Ice Cream Social and IFSP Orientation
7:00 pm Round-table Discussion
  8:00 pm Sky Trekker Launch

8:30 pm
Beginning Astronomy Workshop

9:08 pm

10:00 pm
Sky Trekker Testing

dusk till dawn
Saturday 10:00 am
gates open

10:30 am

daytime solar observing
11:30 am-noon swap meet at picnic shelter

12:45 pm Intro session:  IFSP Orientation

1:00-5:30 pm
6-7:30 pm swap meet at picnic shelter

6:00 pm
Awards and door prizes

8:30 pm
Beginning Astronomy Workshop

9:07 pm

dusk till dawn
12:00 noon
Event closes
Next Year July 16-19 IFSP 2015

GREATCon Contest:  The Great Lakes Region of the Astronomical League will be holding an astro-quiz at 10:30 am Saturday in the Nature Center.  The astrophotography, astro-art, and telescope making contests of past years have been cancelled due to lack of interest, but the exhibition area at the south end of the Nature Center is still available (after Friday brunch) if you have images or artwork or telescopes/equipment you'd like to exhibit.  

Daytime Solar Observing:
  The Observatory has an H-alpha solar filter for the 16" LX200R, and a white-light filter for the 7" refractor, which will be used for observing sunspots and solar prominences during the day.

Swap Meet:  11:30am-12 noon Friday and Saturday, at the picnic shelter north of the Nature Center.  An extra table will be set up for this since the picnic shelter will also be used for the food vendor.
Beginning Astronomy Workshop:  As the name of the event suggests, we are encouraging people to bring the whole family.  The $5/$15 single-day fee is designed to encourage this, and to encourage newcomers to the hobby.  So there will be an "intro to astronomy" talk/class for beginners on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:30 (meet at the Nature Center) to introduce you to some of the basics- what will be visible that night, and a tour of the observing field to demonstrate how to use the many types of telescopes that will be available that night.

Sky Trekker Program:  The Sky Trekker observer's program is for kids and has five levels.  The first level, Sky Trekker I, is designed for beginners and requires participants to find only naked-eye objects: six constellations and three bright stars.  Level IC (C for "Challenge") is for kids who have completed Level I before.  Level IC participants must find 4 additional constellations. The second level, Sky Trekker II, is designed for kids who have previous experience using binoculars and telescopes, and familiarity with several common constellations.  They will be asked to find six constellations, five bright stars, and 3 deep space objects from five different categories, plus one solar system object (other than the earth).  Level IIC is for kids who have completed Level II before.  These participants must find 4 additional constellations and 1 more deep space object than Level II.  The recommended minimum age is 6- children must be able to read the SkyTrekker booklet (a copy of the booklet from a recent year is here).  The maximum age is 18.  There's also a "Sky Trekker Jr" level for pre-schoolers who want to participate.

Note that the Sky Trekker program will be limited to Friday night only. 
Those wishing to participate must sign up at the Nature Center by 7:00 p.m. Friday.  Participants will be given a Sky Trekker booklet and a planisphere (limit: one planisphere per family).  A Sky Trekker Workshop will be held that night at 8:00 p.m. at the Nature Center.  Sky Trekker examinations will begin at 10:00 p.m. at the observatory.  Upon completion of the program, participants will be recognized with a certificate or ribbon, and an ice-cream treat.

The Sky Trekker program was featured in the March 2009 issue of the Astronomical League's "Reflector" magazine.  The article is here.  A pdf file of a recent Sky Trekker booklet is here.

All Night Long:  Stargazing.  And if it clouds up, or you just need a break, Sci-fi movies will be showing all night long (Fri-Sat only) in the Nature Center.  Free coffee, hot chocolate, and popcorn will be available from 9pm till midnight (Fri-Sat only).

Guest Speakers:

Prof. John P. Finley, Purdue Department of Physics and Astronomy
Will speak about using VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) to search for dark matter (more).

Dr. David L. Ellis, Senior Research Engineer, NASA, will give a talk on "NASA Telescopes Across The EM Spectrum"

Bil Connor, IAS president, will give a talk on "Astrophotography - Bringing Faint Fuzzies and Colors to Light"

Astro Gizmos



 Those registering for the full event option are welcome to camp on the observing field or in any of several campgrounds at the camp.   There is a lawn near the lodge, about 100 yards from the main observing field, that can also be used for camping.  There are also smaller campsites in the wooded east half of the camp.



 (if you don't like camping):
In Frankfort, see this page.  Those on the west side of Frankfort would be closest.
In Lafayette, see this page.  Most of these are near the intersection of I-65 and State Road 26 (that would include those whose address is on State Road 26, Fairington Ave, Frontage Road, or Meijer Court or Drive), which is on the east side of Lafayette, in the direction of Camp Cullom, about a 20-25 minute drive.  Avoid those listed in West Lafayette, as you would have to drive all the way across Lafayette before heading out to the camp.  

Meals, facilities, and everything else:

Food will be available from a concession wagon starting Friday afternoon.
For those arriving Thursday or early Friday, we are planning a brunch in the Nature Center on Friday from
 10 am - 12 noon- this meal must be pre-ordered on the registration form.
 The Southfork restaurant in Mulberry is highly recommended by the camp ranger-
it's just three miles away, at the intersection of Mulberry-Jefferson road and SR 38 in the middle of Mulberry.
Free coffee, hot chocolate, and popcorn will be available from 9 pm to midnight on Friday and Saturday.
There's a soda machine at the Nature Center, and a microwave oven at the observatory.

No campfires in or near the observing field.  Camp stoves are permitted on the observing field before dark
Some campsites have charcoal cooking grills.  Campfires are permitted in established campfire rings only.
The camp does not have RV hook-ups.

Water and restrooms are available at the Nature Center.  There are showers in the Lodge basement.
  There is only one set of showers, so there's a shower schedule:

Shower Schedule
8am - 10 am: Women & girls
10 am - 12 pm: Men & boys
12 pm - 2 pm: Small children accompanied by parents
2 pm - 4 pm: Women & girls
4 pm - 6 pm: Men & boys

There are campsites scattered throughout the camp.

There is a Wi-Fi antenna on the south side of the Nature Center.  It should cover most of the observing field.
 There is also a wireless router covering the observatory area.

We will run extension cords from the Nature Center to nearer parts of the observing field for those needing ac power.
Bring your own power strip and extra extension cords.

Click here for maps 

There is an information room in the northeast corner of the Nature Center.

Questions?  Contact Russ Kaspar at 765-659-4451 or John Mahony

General Rules:

Access in/out of the camp is via the old east gate (see the map).  The check-in booth is on the main road through the camp, at the entrance to the "single-day" parking lot.  Those paying only the daily fee will have to park in this lot.  Those paying the full weekend fee will be allowed to drive past to the observing field (during daylight hours only!)  The check-in booth will be staffed from 4pm to 10pm Friday and 10am to 10pm Saturday.  During other hours (after 3pm Thursday or 10am to 4 pm Friday), weekend registrants can check in at the info room at the Nature Center.

Special Note for RVs:  The road through the camp via the east gate has steep hills and low overhanging tree branches, so owners of larger RVs may want to use the west gate, which can be used if necessary during daytime hours.  The gate will be closed, but call the camp's phone at 296-2753 for us to come open the gate.
The camp does not have RV hook-ups.

No driving on the observing field after dark.

 No white lights in the observing areas.  If you don't have a red-light flashlight, we will have a roll of transparent red plastic available at the info booth at the Nature Center that you can put over your light to convert it to red light.

"Saving" parking/camping spaces on the observing field for later arrivals is limited to one extra space per "already arrived" individual/family.  (Please make sure this spot is well marked to avoid disputes.)

The event's organizers and volunteers will be using  FRS ("Family Band") radios set to channel 11 to communicate.  If you are using FRS radios, please use a different channel.

Campfires are permitted in established campfire rings only, and must never be left unattended.  No campfires in or near the observing field.  Camp stoves are permitted on the observing field before dark, and some campsites have charcoal cooking grills.  There's a microwave oven at the observatory.

Do not run generators on the observing field.  Generators can be used north of the observing field on the north side of the gravel lane (near the playground area), or at other areas further from the observing field and observatory, but only from noon to 8pm.

Since many observers will be up until dawn and may be sleeping late, excessive noise before noon is prohibited.

Bag all garbage, dispose of cigarette butts, and clean up your campsite.

Well-behaved pets are allowed, but do not walk your dog on the observing field- it would be way too easy for a dog to wrap its leash around a telescope's tripod leg and knock it down.  There are several large open areas in other areas of the camp.  Cleanup after your pet is required.

No firearms, fireworks, controlled substances, or alcohol are allowed in the camp.

Star Party Etiquette and tips:
If you've never been to a star party before, here are a few tips:

Most amateur astronomers love to show off what's visible through their scopes, so don't be shy about asking to look through someone's scope.  If the image doesn't appear to be properly focused, ask the scope owner how to adjust the focus.  If you wear glasses for near- or far-sightedness, you will probably find it easier to view if you remove your glasses and adjust the focus for your eyes. 

If the object being viewed appears near the edge of the scope's field of view, or if you can't see it at all, tell the scope owner so he can adjust the aim.  Many scopes today have motorized or computerized mounts which can be damaged if you try to move the scope manually.  However some other scopes have very simple mounts that aren't even motorized to track the object (as the earth rotates beneath it), so the object will slowly drift across the field of view.  That means you may need to occasionally move the scope to keep the object centered.  In most cases, you move it by just physically nudging the eyepiece end of the scope, but check with the owner first.  And since the optics may make the image appear upside-down or mirror reversed, the direction that you need to move the scope may not be what you expect, so try a small nudge first to find out how the image moves.  As a general rule, the skyward end of the scope needs to move gradually towards the west, to counter the earth's eastward rotation.

No white light!  Many astronomical objects are faint, even when viewed through a telescope, so preserving the dark-adapted state of our eyes is very important.  Red-light flashlights are permitted, since red light has less effect on dark-adaptation.  If you don't have a red-light flashlight, we will have a roll of transparent red plastic available at the information booth (at the Nature Center) to put over your flashlight to convert it to red light.  Even then, keep it aimed low, and avoid shining it in people's faces.

Bring warm clothing.  Even in July/August, it can get surprisingly cold late at night. And if you'll be there during the day, remember to bring sunscreen.

Many of those camped on the observing field will be staying up very late and sleeping during the day, so loud noise, especially before noon, is seriously frowned upon.