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Stellafane 2000

Well, another Stellafane convention is now but a memory . . . but a happy memory indeed. This was the 30th time I had walked the path to the Stellafane clubhouse from the parking and camping area, having missed only two of the past 32 conventions. And like many of those years, we had clear skies for one night, but cloudy/rainy for the other. Friday was cloudy during the day, but cleared to a dark, albeit damp, sky at night. The summer Milky Way was spectacular, as always, and I spent most of my time just scanning it through my 16x70 binoculars. My most memorable was that of the open cluster M7 in Scorpius as it passed behind some silhouetted trees. Just striking!

Most conventioneers began Saturday at the swap tables, which open as early as 5 AM! While I personally resisted buying anything (came awfully close to picking up a Skywatcher 4-inch f/5 refractor for $225), I enjoyed looking through all of the bargains (and all of the junk they were scattered amongst). I did pick up a collection of about 50 old issues of Sky & Telescope from a friend whom I haven't seen since about 1974! That's part of the magic of Stellafane.

The trip to the summit of Breezy Hill is a rugged one, first hiking up, then down, then up again across a dirt road. This is where the homemade telescopes that have been entered into competition are put on display. And there were some amazing scopes there this year. More than 40 were entered into competition, with perhaps 10-12 worthy of a prize. I would not have wanted to be a judge this year!

Two things immediately struck me. First, the level of craftsmanship was amazing. Wood was the most popular material, and clearly many ATM'ers could also be professional woodworkers if they wanted. Something else that impressed me was the popularity of split-ring equatorial mounts. While Dobsonians still outnumbered them, I don't think I have ever seen more split-rings as I did this year. Perhaps the beginning of a new movement?

All in all, despite the clouds and rain, Stellafane 2000 was a good time. Next year's convention will be held on the weekend of August 17, later than usual due to the timing of New Moon.

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