The Watts Bridge Memorial Airfield site near Toogoolawah in the Somerset Region provides plenty of flat camping areas at a cost of $10 per site per night, about 1 3/4 hour’s drive from Brisbane. SEQAS coordinates with the Watts Bridge committee to arrange weekends now and again, and will advise club members when one has been organised. (Check date claimer for this year’s dates.) The skies are quite dark and there is virtually 360 degree viewing. Only camping in tents, caravan etc is possible, there is no dormitory accommodation, so you must bring everything you need for sleeping, cooking etc. There are toilets and tank water; SEQAS will normally arrange for access to power for the weekend, and hire the use of shower facilities.
Queensland Astrofest is held annually in July or August for ten days at the Lions “Camp Duckadang” near Linville, Queensland about 2 hour’s drive northwest of Brisbane. Catered meals are available at a very reasonable cost, and accommodation is available in dormitories or camping. Activities include presentations by visiting astronomers, vendor sales and novelty events. Astrofest is a great occasion to catch up with fellow astronomers and get ideas from others on how to improve your setup, in addition to having access to great skies and the opportunity to carry out observations or astroimaging at any hour knowing you are in likeminded company.
Astrocamps are an excellent opportunity to observe freely from the degrading effects of light pollution and mingle with fellow astronomers. There are, however, a few unwritten rules you need to follow to ensure your camp is pleasant for all concerned.
All light sources should be red light only. No white light is to be used anywhere near the observation site. The reason is simple: white light destroys night vision, something which can take up to an hour to fully develop.
If you arrive at an astrocamp after dark and are not sure where to go, leave your car at the entrance and walk to the observers. Don’t drive your car, headlights blazing, right through the observation area! Don’t laugh, this has happened at an astrocamp. If in doubt, just yell out and someone will come and assist you.
Loud music can be annoying. Remember, not everyone shares your taste in music. It’s polite to ask around to see if anyone objects.
Avoid shouting loudly at every meteor you witness. It only startles half-asleep astrophotographers who invariably bump the scope and ruin another shot.
Tread very warily around the telescopes, particularly ones unfamiliar to you. Many scopes will have power leads running off them, and tripping over these at night can lead to injury and one very irate telescope owner!
Don’t walk in front of a scope that is being used for photography, particularly if you are flashing around a red torch. This will leave a bright red streak on the film, ruining the photo.
Please be quiet around the sleeping areas at all times. On a good night the keener astronomers will stay up all night viewing the heavens and try to sleep through the morning or take an afternoon nap. It’s hard enough to sleep during the day without having to contend with noise made by the inconsiderate few.
Remember, the charge for accommodation is negligible, way below any commercial sites. However, the cost does not include room service and it is up to all participants to leave the rooms and facilities in a tidy state. At the end of a camp it does not take long to clean up if everyone pitches in and lends a hand.
Finally, out of courtesy, do not touch a telescope without the owner’s permission. Its operation may be totally unfamiliar to you and there is a good chance that you will damage it in your ignorance.
This might give you the impression that astrocamps are a strict and regimented affair. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are very relaxed and enjoyable occasions and are made so only by participants observing the above guidelines. It’s only common courtesy.
Warning: Flashing white light at an hardcore astronomer may be dangerous to your health!