OregonStar Party XVI

smoky sunsets still led to clear nights at the 2003 Oregon Star Party

I arrived Tue 8-26 early evening; just enough time for scope and tent assembly before darkfall. The fires near Sisters are very messy – 4mi vis in Madras, a little better in Prineville. Smoke on site also, but later (after my bedtime) it broke, giving ~5 hours for good viewing. I awoke 5am and found the skies perfectly clear, with Mars setting and Saturn & Orion high in the east.

Wed 8-27 was mostly clear, allowing for optimism.   My CD player was DOA, though, rendering my multimedia scope* rather mundane – so off I went to Prineville’s BiMart for CD player, trashbags for Gene and a stylish fleece throw-blanket to put over my sleeping bag (I was chilly last night!). We committee members set up the site as far as necessary late in the day, then dressed up for the night. Some smoke was still harassing us so I picked and chose items that (1) were in good skies and (2) were easy on my tight back muscles. M2 looked especially nice, as did 5907 and two neighbors that were not quite where Umetria implied. When my built-in soundtrack ended I wandered for a while, visiting Chuck and the Candace/Meg/Carol observing cluster.  As I returned ‘home’ Howard revealed a sought-after wonder: Phobos and Deimos were clearly visible when Mars exited his 20” field!  I then focused my attention on Mars for the duration: I could not capture those moons with occulted 25mm nor any other weapon, but Solis Lacus and other mottlings were occasionally clear.   Judy’s 16” was working full-aperture, showing just what a tight f/4 can accomplish, while my device was much better at its masked 6.5” aperture. Several filters were tried with minimal improvement.   While doing so I heard Judy & Chuck speaking of the new Mars ’03 filters from one source or another; I checked them out then offered them my FL-D. It’s similar to some of the new types but pleasantly different also. I took another walk and found Howard and Tom checking an obscure Umetria clumping (gx-group #49) in Tom’s 24”.   They then began comparing the UHC and a new similar offering from [astronomics?], checking n246 for improvements. We all very slightly preferred the new offering.   When they swung over to M27 I grabbed my nband for comparison also. On M27 Tom picked the astronomics, Howard couldn’t pick a winner, and I leaned to the UHC.   That brought us to 2:30, and after a quick [& dirty, low-down] view of Saturn I packed up and went to bed.   My back relaxed a bit overnight, but not much.

Thu 8-28 began full of high clouds and a smoky aroma.  Grand-opening day put me in the registration tent from 2-4, so I showered early and checked the vendors that were in place.   Sean's Astronomy Shop had several small scopes I could carry to Mexico if I go this winter (if I don’t build a break-apart tube for the SixInch). I mentioned that potentialtrip to a few folks; both astronomically and otherwise it sounds more and more interesting!A few more vendors were expected so I felt no rush.   Sean came to visit my scope (made with 17. 5" optics purchased from him) after I checked his stuff. The committee is resplendent in the tie-dye shirts; they look great, with a near-perfect spiral front and back adding color and a bit of galactic feel.  I added some spacing to my spider-vane bolts; they were not locking down quite right which had allowed for decollimation during the previous night’s Martian tour; otherwise the telescope was working well.

The evening still showed cirrus clouds, but after dark viewing was decent. Bruce J showed up, enjoyed the views and tunes for a while before he headed for others and I for mocha. Among the sights were M11, n7479 and - on the first guess! – n7678! (How did I do that after several years of unpractice?) Mars was better this night using full aperture, but still improved with the 6+ mask. I tracked down minor planet (868)Lowa with ease, adding to my menagerie with a new highest-numbered object (it was about 1/2 degree from Mars, not a tough object to locate!). Soon it was Bruce S' turn to appear; he hung around Chuck and Howard before he & his son dropped by for sights (and sounds - another satisfied multimedia visitor!). Tammy & Michael had set up next to me but crashed early; given the non-improving conditions it was a good choice. I stopped by Dan Grey’s 28” for a minute (left image in slit image below), but clouds were taking the field by 1:15, so soon I gave up for some sleep. The forecast sounded much better in the future, so sleep while you can!

Fri 8-29 brought mocha, and later the swap meet. I had agreed to take Susie’s A-Systems focuser, and nearly grabbed VA Bill’s Paracorr before Jeff Henning grabbed it. As I left the tent I spied Steve Nehl selling out of his pickup, at which point I stole a homegrown 8” f/8 for $40 – including cell! I redid my red-dot mount, which was unable to point exactly to its targets, but could not escape the reg-tent soon enough to be added to the walkabout. . too bad, since I had hoped to introduce the multimedia concept to a wider audience! The tour did include 22-inch binoculars and Dan's innovative 28-inch. Evening brought bad news – the smoke plume found us and overspread the sky with a reddish-brown tint. The sun looked positively Martian in its crimson cover; I took a shot of OSP committeeperson Tammy balancing the red sun on her finger. Suddenly it was cool and cloudy, a distressing turn after a gorgeous day.

Evening came, and four stars provided minimal entertainment. At 9PM the openings began to appear, so despite the glass or maybe two of beer I made my way to the turnaround for the sky tour. It was odd trying to orient people on the fly as openings began to appear, but we managed to get through a good bit of orientation. I say ‘we’ as Dave Powell took over after a while with some star-naming and mythology; he also gave me hints as to other commentary in my talk, but I left the historical stories for him. He also handed over the abomination that is the green pointer; I hate this device but many find this thing indispensible, so I made use of it when appropriate. With all my hand-gestures while talking it worried me that one misplaced finger could cause a great deal of damage - including to my own eyes when my arms were folded! When all was done the skies were nearly clear (other than Sco/Sgr) and I was cold and back-sore. The winter clothing (including one-piece snowmo-suit) did not allow for quality stretching, so my back was less happy this night despite the cracking from chiropractor Jazmar – but I made do. GREAT night for moons everywhere, as luna glowed thin and red early, then a few on Uranus, 1 or 2 more possible on Neptune, and several definites around Saturn. And let’s not forget Phobos and Deimos, this time in my own scope! The tunes and views went smoothly, and I stopped several folks as they passed with views; three for Neptune, a mom & two kids with a quick grand tour, and after 3 a woman alone whose family was sleeping (we picked off the Saturnian moons together). The hotdog & mocha got me through a sleepy stretch, but after 4 most everything had been seen in its best light; Mars was getting low, Saturn and M42 seen clearly, and little else reaching my fast-fogging brain (even the CD player stopped in exhaustion while playing Tangerine Dream tunes). By 4:30 I shut down exhausted and happy.

Sat 8-30 was my day off from reg-tent duties, though I was unable to sleep in. The neighbors were close enough to hear clearly even in quiet time despite their soft speech. I rolled around for a while but was up by 9:30 for refreshment and a shower. . only to find that showers began well before 10am! After dodging the line a few times I took my shower; the line moved at a decent rate and the cool water felt very good. I then resupplied on many fronts from vendors, including a focuser AND tripod-clamp to complete my 80mm (Teotetlan scope?), a tall Rigel quick-finder, and a 1.32” secondary for that new 8 inch f8 mirror from the swap meet. That should keep me for a year, I think!

The rover races were held in the early afternoon. With so many contestants and sufficient rovers, the race was modified a bit, which led to the sight of several rovers crawling over the pseudo-Martian surface simultaneously. It was a bit spooky, and I worried that I would see them in my dreams later; luckily I got no sleep that night so the dream failed to appear!

Saturday inevitably wound down to 3PM, time for the photo shoot and door prizes. I play Vanna for Gene while learning the ropes (I'll be the door-prize host in '04), and all went smoothly enough. I wandered over to dinner, and the troubles begin: DaveP points out new arrivals seeking access to the reg-tent, and I almost reach them when the radio comes to life. Someone says Tammy says my tent was bedeviled! I agree to meet the new folks at the tent in 15 minutes and dash downhill. The tent is definitely deformed, but turns out that all the gear is resting on the sidewall; when all is righted the tent appears fine. Tammy & Michael are far less fortunate: their new tent is wrecked. They salvage their stuff (thankfully finding the new laptop intact), and three of us drag their gear to Lars’ spare tent. I then jump on the bike, ride to the reg tent.. pop goes the rear tire! I limp in and check in the late arrivals. While at the tent, a neighbor drops in seeking aloe vera for sunburn, so now I’m on the radio calling for first-aid folk. I park my useless bike behind the tent, meet the first-aid guy, and dash to dinner ten minutes before it ends.

Twilight at last, and I discover the quickfinder is nonfunctional; the sales tent is still standing so I wait til Sunday to resolve the problem. At least the red dot is pointing better, so all is not lost. A weird night begins clearly, with Sco and Sgr at last visible to the south. Soon, however, the smoke starts to shut down the faint objects, leaving Mars as the only object worth seeing. The smoke actually helps, removing some glare; it also lowers the odds on Phobos and Deimos though. I strongly suspect Phobos and occasionally think I’ve seen Deimos. Mars even looks good through the 6. 7mm and camcorder! More 35mm shots also, maybe twice capturing meteor streaks? Skies did finally improve around 3AM, a common event at this OSP; that brought Saturn to the forefront.. OK, Orion also. Tammy stuck around, snugly bundled in her chair and enjoying the tunes and conversation; her last views of Saturn and M42 justified the late night. This was my latest night too, as I held up until 5:15 before shutting down.

Sun 8-31 was not for sleeping in – I was awake just after 8 and brought camp up to the road swiftly. I was not alone in the early action: the tent people were already in breakdown mode, leaving my broken bike exposed after I had cleverly stashed it behind the tent! I broke down the scope to Irish tunes from Bohola, found my Barlow hiding (as I had hoped / suspected) under the groundboard, and had a quick meal before the breakdown committee got in gear. We put the reg-tent back in its trailer, and Scott drove my bike to the observing field while I did debris duty along the perimeter. We were all done by 11:40, a new record for me; I celebrated by visiting my nieces at their Timothy Lake camp until sundown, arriving home at 9:45 with Labor Day free to ‘relax’!

Footnote – the photos turned out well through the scope and on the tripod, especially the auroral Dipper photo with red-flashlight foreground (but no meteors in any of the images). Camera Concepts sent me a fresh battery for the quickfinder, so that gesture is much appreciated. I have yet to test the 8” mirror; any day now? Next year's event will be in mid-August, well synchronized with the Perseid meteors; see you there!

* in the photo of me and my scope, note the small but effective PC speakers mounted below the focuser!