[2010-Nov-06] The Springfield Telescope Makers held their annual business meeting Saturday evening. Meeting dates were set for 2011, the Dates for the 2012 & 2013 Stellafane Conventions were set, and all current officers and board members were re-elected to their positions: Jeff Lowe, President; Gary Cislak, Vice President; Dave Tabor, Secretary; Wayne Hilliard, Treasurer; Dave Prowten & Ken Slater, board members. Since their is no new president, our immediate past president and seventh member of the board remains John Gallagher. Photos of board members are on our About Page.
President Jeff Lowe opened the meeting by stating "It was a good year for the Springfield Telescope Makers" and he cited many successful events and accomplishments. Secretary Dave Tabor reviewed membership changes in the past 12 months, and with no losses and the addition of several new members, the club now had 129 members on the roster.
[2010-Oct-12] For the second year, Ken Slater of the Springfield Telescope Makers was invited to visit the Cavendish Elementary School Fifth Grade Class by teacher Ann Thompson to talk about astronomical topics, telescope use, Stellafane history and observing techniques.
This year he assisted the students with building simple astrolabes (devices for measuring the altitude of an object) and then helping with their moon observation program by using the astrolabes outdoors to measure the altitude of the daytime visible moon from the school yard. The students also used telescopes to observe the daytime moon (see photo).
As was done last year, this classroom visit will be followed up in a few weeks with a field trip to Stellafane, to visit the historic landmark, explore the Porter Turret Telescope, examine our iron meteorite and to let the students try their hand at rough grinding a mirror.
[2010-Sep-18] A thick cloud cover at dusk did not dampen the sprits of club members and guests on Saturday evening at the Stellafane Open House and Star Party. We had a nice turnout, about 40 guests, with many children and young people attending. Our early evening observing was limited to the moon towards the east, where the cloud cover had a few holes with the Porter Turret Telescope. Later Jupiter rose and that was the next target of interest. As the evening wore one, the clouds relented, and more objects were visible. Down in the McGregor with it's computer controlled pointing, a variety of objects were being check out.
Inside the clubhouse, a warm fire burned in the fireplace. Hot cider and coffee were available, as well as lasagna, salad, apples and cookies for those who wanted more substance, prepared by the Breunings and Wilders. Tours were given of the Clubhouse and Porter Turret, and folks relaxed around the fire and renewed old friendships or made new ones. A very nice evening even with the challenging clouds.
[2010-Sep-15] Stellafane now has an self-service e-mail list for the general public who wants to be notified or reminded about Stellafane sponsored public events such as the Stellafane Convention and Stellafane Public Star parties. See Stellafane Announcements for more details and to sign up.
[2010-Sep-11] At Stellafane, we take down a lot of trees every spring for safety's sake; winter damage often makes these trees a hazard and we would not want anyone to get hurt. Previously, they would just be dragged into the woods and/or cut up for firewood. We also use a lot of lumber to repair our buildings and improve the site, and occasionally to build a new structure. The club decided that an investment in a sawmill would quickly be paid back by a substantial savings in purchased lumber.
We purchased a sawmill this spring, but these units have become so popular that delivery did not occur until last week. At our club meeting on Saturday we had a lot of fun assembling our new sawmill. By the end of the day we had it running, and made 'first sawdust' with it (a lot like 'first light' on a telescope). It still needs some fine adjustments but worked surprisingly well right from the start. It can handle 13 foot logs up to 34 inches in diameter with a maximum cut width of 28 inches.
Over the winter it will live in the pavilion, and we will saw lumber for a new saw mill shed to be erected in the spring. We have stocked piled logs from this spring's hazardous tree cleanup for this purpose. The saw mill will be permanently located to the east of our convention area in 'equipment alley' - a remote area on our property most visitors to Stellafane do not ever see.
YouTube Video of assembly & operation by Wayne Hilliard.
[2010-Sep-08] With more than 60 people attending and the weather cooperating, the star party held on September 4th at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in cooperation with the National Park Service was a success. At 8:00 PM Rick Kendall of the National Park Service started with an excellent, brief presentation on light pollution in the visitor's center to the assembled crowed. Carl Malikowski of the Springfield Telescope Makers then gave a talk on the history of astronomy in the area, and showed our Porter Garden Telescope to the visitors.
Meanwhile other club members had set up scopes on the lawn. It was a pleasant, cool, dry evening with very clear, dark sky among some here-and-there clouds. Mostly it was clear overhead. The darkness was needed because we had only deep-sky objects available. Venus had set in the trees, and Jupiter wasn't up yet. However, items from Alcor/Mizar to the Ring, Dumbbell Nebula and several of our favorite clusters (M13, M22) were easy to see. Iliana called out, "I have Brocchi's Cluster" -- a favorite of hers -- and Brad Vietje answered (to torment her!) "You mean the COATHANGER!?" She had an Astroscan with her, which showed it well. Club members everywhere found friendly and inquisitive guests, who seemed to enjoy the views, asked lots of questions, and took an interest in our explanations. The crowd gradually thinned out, and around 10:45 PM it was almost clouded over and the last of us headed for home after a real evening of observing fun and sharing with an enthusiastic audience. The Club members and the Ranger agreed that we want to do it again, it was a lot of fun for all.
[2010-Aug-30] Stellafane will host two free September Star Parties (Public Observing Sessions).
On Saturday, September 4th, on Labor Day Weekend, Stellafane and the National Park Service will co-host a star party at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, NH (See link for directions). This event will start at 8:00 PM with a talk about the history of astronomy in the Upper Valley area of the Connecticut River in the park visitor center. After dusk, members of the Springfield Telescope Makers will have their telescopes available for viewing a variety of celestial objects, and they describe what you are seeing through the telescope and answer any questions you may have. For more information, see the Press Release for this Event.
On Saturday, September 18th, the Springfield Telescope Makers will hold a Stellafane Open House (also known as out annual "Up all night star party"). Our two observatories will be open for viewing, and many member telescopes will also be available. Before twilight, we will offer tours of the Stellafane Observatory National Historic Landmark. The event starts at 7:00 PM and ends whenever we all get tired! Come for whatever time you want. This event is located on Breezy Hill at Stellafane, follow the signs along Breezy Hill Road or see these Directions. For further information call (603) 865-5476. (PDF Flyer)
[2010-Jul-13] It is my great pleasure to announce that this year's WALTER SCOTT HOUSTON AWARD of the North East Region of the Astronomical League (NERAL) is being awarded to JOHN BORTLE of Stormville, New York at this year's Stellafane Convention in Springfield, Vermont on Saturday evening, August 7, 2010. John is probably best known for the "Bortle Dark Sky Scale" to categorize light pollution. He has been to about 40 Stellafane Conventions, and has been extremely active in the AAVSO not only with his observations, but also as the editor of their newsletter for many years. He is also known for his Comet Digest in Sky & Telescope magazine, and has contributed a great deal of data on comets to International Comet Quarterly. As a prolific observer, author and astronomy educator and lecturer who knew Scotty Houston, we are very happy to present this award to this man who carries on Scotty's work so well.
This year we learned that a very valued person to the North East Region would be moving to Florida by the end of the Summer. So we decided that we should recognize his contribution to the North East before he leaves. SAM STORCH, another astronomy icon often seen at Stellafane, will be receiving the NERAL SPECIAL SERVICE AWARD for his work in Astronomy Education. With his lectures at New York City's Hayden Planetarium and the Edwin P. Hubble Planetarium in Brooklyn, Sam has guided the careers of so many astronomy students and has pointed some of them to professional careers in astronomy. His services as Vice-president and newsletter editor of the Astronomical Society of Long Island, and as the Secretary of the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society have been substantial. So to Professor Storch, we say that we will miss you very much here in the North East, but your service to astronomy in our region will not be forgotten.
On behalf of the
North East Region of the Astronomical League, we are very pleased to give these
awards to these two distinguished colleagues in astronomy, John Bortle and Sam Storch.
Congratulations to you both!
Maryann Arrien Chair: NERAL The North East Region of the Astronomical League
NERAL Regional Representative: Susan Rose
NERAL Secretary: Alan Rifkin
NERAL Treasurer: Richard Roberts
NERAL MEETING NOTICE: Our Annual Business Meeting will take place at the Stellafane Convention On Saturday, July 7th at 5:00 pm under the Food Tent. The public is welcome to our meetings.
[2010-May-16] The Springfield Telescope Makers hosted Vermont’s Calvin Coolidge District Boy Scout Spring Camporee this past weekend, May 7-9. Over 100 boy scouts and leaders from all over southern Vermont enjoyed many activities from model rocketry and Space Exploration to basic astronomy, Deep Space objects and Light Pollution Education. Some, who had never looked through a telescope, were able to experience Saturn and Mars through Stellafane’s world famous Schupmann telescope at the McGregor Observatory.
The Scout program consisted of a number of Astronomy merit badge stations that boys would visit, which included a Planet walk, Telescope history, types and their purposes, Deep Space Observing, the Sun and a number of others. Paul Valleli agreed to do constellations study and locate them if it was clear (which it wasn't). Paul set up posters showing the important constellations mounted on display boards, but they began falling off as the dampness increased. He finally ended up using them as flash cards for the ten scouts doing that Merit Badge requirement. Melinda Callis, Jerry DeLuca, and Carl Malikowski are Merit Badge counselors and were able to sign off on a number of boys who completed their Astronomy merit badge. Gary Cislak and Al Rifkin were able to get a number of rockets into the air and teach more about the history of space exploration. Another well received activity was Ray Morits' hands-on mirror grinding demonstration, where anyone could try their hand at pushing around some 220 grit, using the 16” tile tool, on the 27” mirror blank.
The Boy Scouts were joined for daytime activities by more than 50 Cub Scouts, who were treated to their own stellar program, led by Kris Larsen, which focused on requirements for the Cub Scout Astronomy belt loop.
Saturday evening, STM members were treated to dinner and judged a patrol cook-off contest in which a number of troops participated. Although a thunderstorm and high winds cut the event short, judges were still treated to some very outstanding food, including pizza cooked in a Dutch oven, an excellent Dutch oven stew, and an entire turkey dinner (complete with stuffing, sweet potatoes, a stir-fry dish with rice and dessert) cooked right in a campsite! Following, was the scout campfire program which was moved at the last minute to the Flanders Pavilion with everyone dry and safe from the weather. The scouts presented the Springfield Telescope Makers with an award honoring this event and each STM member who participated was awarded an official Camporee patch, complete with the Stellafane logo.
In spite of less than perfect conditions, Jeff Lowe, Dave Tabor, Zhenya and Carl Malikowski, and Ray Morits, along with other members were busy manning the McGregor Observatory both evenings. Although this was difficult with the ever changing cloud patterns and come-and-go 'sucker' holes, several planets and deep sky objects were observed. During several intervals of clouds that prevented viewing, scouts were treated to some discussions on how they could get started in astronomy.
Despite the strange weather over the weekend, the weekend was a huge success. The entire STM staff and the scout leaders agreed that we should try to do this again, hopefully without the extra excitement of high wind, hail, ice, snowflakes and thunderstorms.
Rocketry: As the scouts began pouring into the pavilion, seeking shelter from the early Saturday morning downpours, they quickly noticed a display of several different kinds of model rockets and immediately gravitated to them. The display consisted of several different models including scale models of a Mercury Redstone, a three stage payload rocket, boost gliders and a high powered 6 foot tall missile. A quick question and answer session took place, and the scouts were thrilled to discover that they would be building and flying their own model rockets.
Stellafane VP Gary Cislak instructed the scouts in the construction of model rockets. The Scouts were divided into groups of 3 and provided a rocket kit and all the materials needed to build it. Their goals were to properly follow instructions and create a flying model rocket that was stable, safe, recoverable and that would fly several missions. FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION! The scouts worked well in their groups, with only occasional tips and suggestions being offered by their instructor. When the morning was done over twenty rockets were made and ready for the afternoon launch!
At 1:00 PM a large group of Scouts and Cub Scouts gathered In the observing field in front of the McGregor Observatory for the rocket launching demonstration. Weather Conditions were assessed and the decision was made that the launch would go on. A small tent was set up to protect the Launch crew from the elements, site manager John Martin worked along with Gary Cislak to prepare the models for flight, inspecting each rocket for proper construction, stability and insuring recovery devices and engines were properly installed and functional. Alan Rifkin took the role of Range Safety Officer, ensuring that the crowd was at a safe distance, doing final launch pad connections. Al did a great job engaging the crowd in impromptu educational quizzes and getting everybody to participate in the countdowns. Each scout had the opportunity to launch their rocket several times. Despite the drizzle, rain and shifting wind conditions over 40 launches were made! At times the rockets disappeared briefly into the clouds, but every model was recovered! Not a single rocket drifted away or was lost to a tree! That is rare even when flying in optimal conditions. It was certainly a great event!
General report by Dave Tabor & Carl Malikowski with contribution
from Paul Valleli;
Rocketry report by Gary Cislak. Photos by Carl Malikowski & Paul Valleli. Edited by webmaster Ken Slater.
[2010-Apr-21] We had another great year at the North East Astronomy Forum (held Saturday-Sunday April 17-18) with over 100 people to trying their hand at pushing glass. The 8" demo blank was worked down to about an f/3.5 before turning it over and working tool on top. It is now fighting it's way back up to around an f/4. Liz Sharpe and Roger Williams were busy the entire time with grinding and the crunch of 80 grit could be heard an isle away. Rick Hunter did a great jog manning the Foucault tester explaining and demonstrating the test process. There were many people who stopped by to ask advice, reminisce over their own telescope making experiences, and thank us for our efforts. Both Dr. Al Monkowski's and Dave Kelly's telescopes provided great eye candy to entice people into the booth and gave us ample opportunity to talk about who we are and why we do this. (by Jeff Lowe, President)
[2010-Mar-05] We are creating a new section on the Stellafane web site which tells you how to build a 4- to 12-inch Dobsonian telescope, using parts your make or can buy. The plans are focused on first time telescope makers and are broken into two major parts: The Newtonian Optical Tube and the Dobsonian Mount. We are starting this section in honor of the upcoming 75th Stellafane Convention on August 5-8 this year. At the time of this writing, the plans have been published up to the primary mirror cell. The focuser and diagonal are being worked on and will be published shortly, the entire scope will be done well ahead of the August convention. Follow along, and bring a home made telescope to Convention this year!
[2010-Feb-03] The Vermont Public Television (VPT) series Emerging Science featured the 2009 Stellafane Convention and several members of the Springfield Telescope Makers in the series premier on February 2nd. "This episode explores the wonders of the cosmos with two of Vermont's leading astronomical physicists. John O'Meara of St. Michael's College is using infrared technology to view galaxy formations 12 billion light years away. Joanna Rankin of the University of Vermont is using radio astronomy to explore one type of celestial body - the pulsar. Also, visits with astronauts Alan Bean and Jerry Carr." Alan Bean was interviewed at the Hartness House before his keynote speech at our convention. Click the image to watch this 26:41 minute video.
[2010-Jan-21] We have added a new web page of Historic Convention Photos starting with the first convention in 1926 through 1999 (we do not have photos from every convention). After 1999, we entered the digital photography and web era, and photos were included on our post-convention web pages, which are available from our main Convention page.
We have also used this page to introduce a easier way to browse multiple photos - when you click on a photo, it expands right were you are, and you man navigate through all the photos on the page without leaving that page. A slide show option is also available. You may try it in single photo mode by clicking on the photo at right.
Thanks to club member Tom Spirock, who scanned many of the photos in our archive
in 2000, which made them available for this new page. Thanks also to a couple of
conventioneers who have contributed pictures. If you have photos to contribute,
please see the directions on the page. Thanks also to members Glenn Becker,
Jay Drew, Dave Tabor and Wayne Zuhl who helped test the new photo viewing software.