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2000 Stellafane Highlights

Once again the magic of Stellafane beckoned. This year fellow Astronomical Society of Harrisburg member Roger Studer and I traveled together to attend the 65th Stellafane ATM Convention. It was Roger's first visit to the hallowed grounds of Stellafane.

After first setting up the tent at the lower campground and chatting with other conventioneers, Roger and I spent some time on Breezy Hill looking at some of the ATM telescopes entered in the competition, visiting the Pink Clubhouse and seeing sunspots through the 12" f/17 Porter Turret Telescope. Later that afternoon, as the horseshoe pitching contest raged, we observed some dark filaments and stately solar prominences through John Vogt's 6" Astro-Physics Starfire and Daystar H-alpha filter, which were located just below the McGregor Observatory.

I ran into noted author Phil Harrington and asterism hunter John Davis and joined them and some of their friends for an early supper in Springfield.

Although the weather forecast was somewhat gloomy, the skies began to clear as the Friday night talks began and Stellafaners were able to get in about four and a half hours of quality observing. The skies were quite dark and fairly transparent but rather heavy dewing plagued many observers. My Orion ShortTube 80 refractor was useless in practically no time and I never got a chance to look through the 125mm Meade ETX that my friend Richard DeLuca's wife had won at the Winter Star Party before its corrector plate was sopping wet. (Earlier, Rich demonstrated just how well a green laser works as an astronomical pointer.) Even the singlet objective of the mighty 13" f/10 Schupmann medial refractor eventually succumbed to the dew.

Not all the optical devices at Stellafane were put out of action by the dew, however. I had fine views of numerous Messier and NGC objects through Roger's 15" Obsession Dob, Lloyd Adam's 13.1" Coulter Dob, John Vogt's 32" ATM Dob and a 25" Obsession Dob. The stars of M13's core displayed a subtle yellow hue through John's 32" and the eastern segment of the Cygnus Loop, NGC 6992, was revealed in great detail through the 25".

The North American Nebula (NGC 7000) and the dark Pipe Nebula (LDN 1773) were seen rather easily through 8x56 Celestron Ultimas. Using these binoculars I logged many summer Messier objects as I stood in line to have a peek through the big scopes. I also tracked 7 satellites and/or upper rocket stages between third and fourth magnitudes. Delta Scorpii, which had recently undergone a catastrophic event, was conspicuously brighter than all the rest of the stars of Scorpius except Antares. During the course of the night quite a few meteors, many of them presumably Delta Aquarids, graced the heavens.

Unfortunately, by the time that Pisces was well placed and I remembered about the bright new supernova in NGC 524, SN 2000cx, it was almost too late, as clouds were beginning to cover more and more of the sky. A quick and ultimately futile search with Roger's 15" revealed neither NGC 524 nor its exploding star before the southern sky was totally obscured by water vapor.

The Saturday morning swap meet drew a large crowd as usual. In the early afternoon I went to Breezy Hill and admired the scopes entered in this year's contest. The competition was very stiff, with many noteworthy telescopes on display. (Interesting enough, there were five split-ring equatorial Newtonians entered at Stellafane 2000.) Some of my favorites were the 12.5" and 14" split-ring equatorials (both of which won awards), the 8" f/20 tri-schiefspiegler, the 1.5" miniature truss-tube Dob, Llyod Adam's excellent 6" truss-tube Dob and fellow Delaware Valley Amateur Astronomers member Marilyn Michalski's beautiful 10" f/6.7 Dob. As usual, there was a large contingent of folks from the DVAA at Stellafane 2000 including Bob Midiri, whose son Jason won an award in the junior division of the telescope competition. There were also two unusual and very interesting instruments at the summit - a combination spectroscope/spectrohelioscope (the sun's H-alpha line was very prominent through this scope) and an 18" f/1.9 Newtonian that used an extremely lightweight graphite fiber mirror.

Saturday night brought the usual Stellafane banter, the telescope award presentations, the door prize drawing (featuring bags of Tele Vue Ploessls, Panoptics and Powermates, Naglers, and Radians), David Levy's Shadowgram talk on his personal observatory, Tony Cook's keynote talk on Russell Porter and the 200" Hale Telescope, and very heavy rain.

After leaving Stellafane on Sunday morning Roger and I made a quick stop at the Hartness House, the home of the R. W. Porter Museum of Amateur Telescope Making and the refractor Turret Telescope, before heading on to the Summer Star Party in Savoy, Massachusettes.

Dave Mitsky:
Astronomy Enthusiasts of Lancaster County,
Astronomical Society of Harrisburg,
Delaware Valley Amateur Astronomers.

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