What a great weekend at Stellafane 2014. Just four weeks before, I attended a fantastic Cherry Springs Star Party, and was fortunate enough to get 3 solid nights of observing put in. The forecast for this year’s Stellafane really looked morbid one week before the convention. It looked like a crockpot of humidity during the days, and then wet rain at night. Luckily as the calendar approached, that weather forecast improved infinitely.
I arrived with most of my group early on Thursday, and the weather was mostly pleasant. Upon arriving at 3:20 or so, I immediately picked out my spot for my scope, and began unpacking the car. Two hours later, my 16” Dob was mostly assembled, my tent was up, and everything mostly settled in. One thing I can say about going to a star party – BE ORGANIZED. It makes a huge difference, and gets you to that Zen like state much faster.
Standing with my 16″ f/4 New Moon Telescope. A fantastic Dob, and the best gear I have ever purchased!
The small tent city we were setup in. My tent is the brown tent, third one in on left side.
Here’s a quick video showing a time lapse of me and my neighbors getting ready for a night of observing.
Of course the best thing about Stellafane is that it isn’t really intended to be a serious star party. There will be headlights, there will be lots of noise, there will be parties here and there. So it is a very casual and fun environment defined by the jolly go lucky attendees that decide to come. While observing is a big part of the event, having a relaxing time enjoying the company of amateur astronomers and telescope makers is really the focus.
This year at Kopernik AstroFest 2011, the skies were just down right mean to us. It never really rained (as far as I can remember) but we were socked in with clouds for 49 of the total possible 54 hours of AstroFest from Friday September 30th until Sunday October 2. We’ve come to expect this living in upstate, NY. That’s why our fantastic leadership team booked so many great speakers and guests to present and attend AstroFest 2011.
With this in mind, I first point to the time I spent with Barlow Bob. I have to admit, I was a bit leery about what magic Barlow Bob would pull out of the van with such dismal daytime skies. I’ve attended Barlow Bob’s NEAF Solar Star Party to observe “Bob’s Only Star he cares about.” And I know he has a VERY amazing inventory of solar observing equipment. When I previewed the weather forecast, I was a bit bummed out that I would not be able to play with these wonderful solar observing toys.
But as I’ve come to expect from Barlow Bob’s reputation – I wouldn’t be disappointed. We spent the better part of Friday and Saturday playing with different spectrascopes and spectragraphs. We observed a variety of different gases contained in small light bulbs that emitted different types of spectra. We observed everything from some elements similar to those in our sun to the ever-puzzling spectra produced by Iodine.
So what do a bunch of up state New York Amateur Astronomers do in the heart of winter? Well they throw an outdoor astronomical observing party for the public. I mean why not? What’s a little cold anyway? Ok so we aren’t talking 40 degrees F out there, but rather something more like, well ok, 10 degrees F. But hey we are a hearty bunch right?
The day started out at around 4 PM, when we began the event with a special family workshop to build a small telescope. The gist of the program was to accomplish two goals. First, to teach families about how telescopes work, and then to also get them to look through the scopes. We had 19 families, for a total of about 60-70 people including moms, dads, children, and other family members.
The Perseid Meteor Shower came and went last week. The peak was occurring between Tuesday August 11th and Friday August 14th. I always get excited about the Perseids. A few years back, I was observing on a rather explosive night of shooting stars, and ever since then, this has been my favorite meteor shower to observe. Living in Upstate NY, it is also one of the few Meteor showers to observe in shorts, under the warm August nights.
Starting out Thursday very early morning, George, Art and I met at a parking lot to move forth into the potential stargazing heavens in Cherry Springs State Park near Coudersport, PA. When we met in the morning, it was raining in Johnson City, and we hoped we would not see the same weather when we arrived at our destination three hours away. The forecast was not looking good.
The long haul went off without a hitch, and we made it to Cherry Springs without any problems. It rained the whole way there, but when we showed up at Cherry Springs, it let up suddenly. After we selected our camping spot, it was time to set up base camp. Luckily, we were able to get the central easy up canopy tent up before the rain started to drizzle again (thanks so much to George for purchasing this perfect structure). We then started to stand up each other’s individual sleeping tents. Before we knew we were settled in.
On a cold and brisk January day in Vestal, NY, the skies uncharacteristically clear for January, and a group of ametuer astronomers couldn’t think of anything better to do than hold a star party. The temperatures reached 0 degrees by the time all was said and done, but that didn’t scare off astronomy enthusiasts nor the curious public.
I manned the C-14 dome, which houses a Celestron C-14 Schmidt Cassegrain telescope mounted on a Celestron CGE mount. A great piece of equipment. The C-14 is a vintage Celestron scope from around the mid 1980’s and has superb optics. We just recently renovated the dome by installing a new CGE mount donated by my good friend Erik. I brought my high end eye piece collection to support the event since it was such a beautiful day and night.