Not to put the rest of our events into a category of being less than worthwhile, this time our impromptu star party became memorable for things that were way better than just being under great night skies!
The 2009 Pacific Astronomy and Telescope Show's annual event at the Pasadena Convention Center, this last weekend, brought astronomy enthusiasts together culminating the highlights of a great effort by the organizers of Riverside Telescope Makers Club. Thanks to them, a great group of astronomy celebrities and fans gathered to enjoy all of the fun stuff that an astronomy show brings. New gear, lectures on the latest techniques, meeting the big boys! Lots of fun!
Fun is right! Since we are only two hours away from the PATS venue, it was possible for us to go and enjoy the show and, also, do some exciting star gazing in Joshua Tree! The reason for the show is business at heart, since PATS is about the business of astronomy. That's what makes star parties, like ours, possible. It's about the equipment and how to use it, and how it gets into our hands! This time, we were talking about "BIG optics and W I D E Field Eyepieces"!
So, we have one of the best opticians on the planet coming to town! And, in our own back yard! Al is famous for his specialty products that intersect at the eyepiece. For Al, it's when an eyepiece meets mirror, for a perfect marrage! A perfect storm! And us, the enthusiasts, gobbling up the feast of genius coming from these guys! The sky was about to open, and snap into focus!
The eyepiece in question was the new to be released Tele Vue 21 mm Ethos! Our star party, as Al put it, "the Pre PATS, Pre VUE Star Party", would be the site where everyone could come and look through the 21 in big aperture scopes. And look, we did! Wider and deeper than ever before in the history of the human eye meeting the light of eternal existence! Better than any view ever seen by anyone, anywhere, in the annals of time! Galileo, himself, surely, stood amongst us, that evening!
We were thrilled that our group had what it took to make it possible. Not only that our skies are capable of providing the basic subject matter, our neighborhood, also, has some of the gear that makes good astronomy possible. The arrangements began to gel as time got close and by the Tuesday before PATS, we were set up and ready to go. Paul Maag brought his 22 inch Star Splitter, Rick Heistand brought out his 28" f/4 Telescope, Johnny Hardwick brought his new Takahashi 152 APO, John Fraser brought his big 5 inch Vixen Binoscope, and some of the guys from the Riverside Astronomical Society brought out a terrific array of other scopes. The SCDVA's 32 inch joined in hunting for targets, so, we had a decent powerhouse of optical instruments that filled the observing field.
The event got off to a great start when Al arrived with his west coast representative, John Rhodes. Having driven all the way from an evening at the Lowell Observatory, in Flagstaff, Arizona, the two were, surprisingly, up for the excitement of the evening, given their long drive. Alex McConahay and his group arrived and brought a terrific added dimension to the scene. Together, we ran back and forth between scopes seeing the views of the sky through the array of instruments. Breathtaking sights that only happen at times like this!
Compounded by what was already going on, the famous Stephen O'Meara Tele Vue Genesis was on hand for views that no-one expected. Especially, Al! He was very excited to see the scope out and available for everyone to look through, as was one of his proto type 13 Nagler eyepieces that heralded the event that changed amateur astronomy. Together, the gear brought a special tidbit to the fun of it all. David McChesney was graciously on hand, and brought his world famous harmonica to the party, adding an entertaining side to the event, that everyone enjoyed.
Night two brought much better skies and the scopes got the opportunity to show their stuff! Like dragsters on the tarmac, humidity and other factors affect performance. The same is true for telescopes and Wednesday night improved and shined well! The scopes jammed views through Al's Ethos and right into everyone's retinas with gleaming images! Photons, never seen like this by anyone before, annihilating themselves in everyone's eyeballs! Brats on the BBQ and a little libation filled the field with the trimmings of a great time in the warm desert night of Joshua Tree. Walt Metcalf entertained us with his guitar that set a tone of peace and harmony to the air. We were so lucky that Joshua Tree could be a place and a time!
We had a great event and hope to see another like it soon! Thanks goes to Al Nagler and friends for their unavoidable involvement, as we would have no instruments without them! Having them join in made our time special and immense, for everyone! The astronomers, that came, are also thanked for their skill and willingness to share of themselves! A special thanks goes to Deb and Valeree for their continued support and hard work. They put the grease into the mechanics of the effort and the brats and clean tables fell squarely on them as they, unselfishly, made this another fun event! Thanks to everyone at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground, too! Ken and Sally make their place home for us and we couldn't do any of this with out the support of these fine folks!