This year's Stellafane, the 66th in 75 years and the first of the new millennium, offered some very interesting ATM designs and was far better than the 2000 convention as far as the weather was concerned. (There was some Stellarain at times on Friday but it was nothing like last year's Saturday night downpour.) The 18" split-ring equatorial Newtonian built by Carl Lancaster and the 16" Ritchey-Chretien Cassegrain made by Bob Novak were real standouts in my opinion. There were many other efforts among the 38 contest entries on Breezy Hill worthy of mention. Bob May brought a 200" focal length singlet refractor, a recreation of the crude telescopes of astronomy's early days, all the way from California. Canadian Normand Fullum built a beautiful 8" Newtonian with a very ornate mount. Victor Chiarizia's 16" truss tube Dobsonian was another handsome piece of work. I also admired Bob Mulford's 8" aluminum tube Dob, Ken Spencer's 8" travel scope Dob, Dennis Galvin's 10" Dob, Frank Bov's 12.5" Dob, and Ed Taychert's 20.125" Dob. This year's miniature telescope by Barry Christ was a functional replica of a 10" Cave Newtonian. Brian Lula machined an impressive GEM from an aluminum street light post. All of the telescopes entered in this year's competition can be viewed from the 2001 post convention www page.
While not strictly speaking an ATM scope, one of the most impressive instruments at Stellafane 2001 was Joe Castoro's 155mm Astro-Physics Starfire binocular telescope. Unfortunately, I was not able to look through this $22,000 beauty at night but its daytime performance was outstanding. John Vogt offered H-alpha observing through a $875 Coronado SolarMax filter and a Celestron Nexstar 80, which was a far cry from the Daystar H-alpha filter and 155m Astro-Physics Starfire that John usually brings to Stellafane. The 0.8A Coronado unit performed surprisingly well in such a short f/ratio achromat.
The Vermont skies, while not exceptionally good this time around, provided satisfying views of many deep-sky favorites as well as the morning gas giants. Friday night was the better of the two nights. I spent time at the eyepieces of scopes ranging from 80mm to 36" in aperture. My 8x42 binoculars saw a lot of action too. Among the many binocular objects I logged was an asterism new to me known as the Lucky 7. The 13.1" Coulter belonging to my friend and traveling companion Lloyd Adam captured ancient photons from galaxies such as M31, M32, M33, M101, M110, and NGC 6946 as well as from far nearer globular and open star clusters. As luck would have it we happened to be set up near Al Nagler. With the help of a 31mm Nagler type 5 Uncle Al's new NP-101 refractor produced some breathtaking wide-field cosmic panoramas; the North American Nebula (NGC 7000) was particularly striking. I also had a chance to have a peak through the new Tele Vue 3mm to 6mm zoom eyepiece through the NP-101. A 12.5" Litebox Dob built by Hawaiian Barry Peckham did itself proud on M27 and other summer objects. Roy Diffrient's award winning 18" Dob was hard at work on planetary nebulae on Saturday night. On Sunday morning I watched the sky brighten while observing Jupiter and Saturn through a 6" Maksutov-Cassegrain and 10 and 13.1" Dobs. In addition to a 36" Obsession Dob, which I believe may have been the largest aperture instrument ever to grace a Stellafane Convention, other "big iron" present on the hill below the McGregor Observatory included a 25" Obsession and a 24" Starmaster GOTO.
During the course of the weekend I ran into many old astrofriends and acquaintances including noted amateur astronomers Phil Harrington, John Davis, John Vogt, Joe Castoro, Roy Diffrient, and Sue and Alan French. I also met telescope reviewer Ed Ting.
I participated in the Friday afternoon mirror grinding demonstration but stayed for only a few of the Friday night talks since I was eager to begin observing. Among the ones I heard were a fitting eulogy for Roger Tuthill and several reports on the African solar eclipse. The Saturday morning swap meet offered the usual trash or treasure depending upon one's point of view. As usual I had no luck with the Saturday night raffle which featured bags of various premium Tele Vue eyepieces. Derrick Pitts, the keynote speaker, talked about his very successful efforts to popularize astronomy via radio broadcasts in the Philadelphia area.
So another Stellafane convention has entered the history books. May there be many more to follow.
The Springfield Telescope Makers would like to thank Dave Mitsky
for his faithful and prompt reports on the Stellafane conventions.
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