2008 Convention Reports
Here we present reports contributed by convention attendees, giving another perspective on what went on or was important to them. If you have a convention report to share here, please send it to us. Thanks!
The Springfield Telescope Makers have received a few suggestions for improvements, and we appreciate that feedback also. If you have a suggestion, please send it to us. You can be assured it will be read by our club officers and convention staff and considered as we plan the 2008 convention.
Submitted by George N. Huftalen, Jr., Press Officer Astronomical Society of Southern New England (ASSNE):
Please find attached photos from the 2008 Stellafane Convention from the point of view of the Astronomical
Society of Southern New England (ASSNE), based at the Carpenter Museum in Rehoboth MA and serving members living
in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Three of our members (including myself at #1) were the first to register
online in 2008 and many ASSNE Members consider Stellafane our spiritual second home.
26 members attended and camped in far Stellafane East in the Big Campers area. Most of the members arrived on Thursday and although we arrived a tad early (we apologize for our eagerness, but traffic was light) the convention volunteers were kind and allowed us in with the caveat that we not leave and cause a problem on the road. A handful of our members (Stellafane Newbies!) arrived on Friday, but vowed to come Thursday next year! Thursday night was glorious with clouds slowly retreating and allowing beautiful views of the Milky Way…including full dust lanes in Cygnus!
Stellafane is a dark sky treasure, and although not perfectly dark, the grounds and hospitality of STM, make up for this very minor shortcoming. Because of the wonderful skies on Thursday, I was able to observe the Veil Complex and the Helix Nebula in my 8 inch SCT, both of which are impossible to see in my Warren, RI skies! Further, I elected to dedicate the last half of my observing session on Friday to wide field observation using 10X50 binoculars. During this time I added several Messier Objects to my logs for the Astronomical League’s Messier Binocular Observing Club. In addition, enjoying a star-hopping exercise with my friend, ASSNE Vice President Bob Sikes, leading me, I was able to observe Neptune in those same 10X50 binoculars along with many difficult Messier Bino targets! We also enjoyed naked eye observation of M 31, the Double Cluster, The North America Nebula and a delightful flurry of meteors!
Saturday morning it was obvious that attendance was down by the offerings at the Swap Tables although—like every year—I found a treasure and several of our members took advantage of the glass and ATM supplies being offered by STM. When I returned to camp, the forecast was grim, including severe weather warnings for Springfield and points south. Since we had two great nights of observing and were exhausted by “too much fun,” many of our members were breaking camp and my vehicle companion and I decided to attend the telescope competition display at the Pink Clubhouse and table our decision as to leave or not after the outing. On Breezy Hill at the Pink Clubhouse, it became evident that the weather was growing dangerous as we completed our enjoyment of the competition and many telescopes were being removed from the hill or covered. Upon return to camp, almost everyone was broken down and we followed suit, leaving the Stellafane grounds around 2:30 on Saturday, a major concession for my riding partner and I as we are diehards!
I am happy to report that at least a handful of our members stayed for the Meeting and Raffle and left shortly thereafter. I must report that on our way home, we came across funnel clouds that not quite reached the ground and generally severe weather and several bizarre motor vehicle accidents—including a car stranded atop a Jersey barrier outside of Worcester after a bad cell went through! All reached home safely and will be reporting on Stellafane to our full membership on Saturday, August 9. Thanks to all from Springfield Telescope Makers and other volunteers who worked so hard to make Stellafane 2008 a stunning success!
Submitted by Jeff Curren of Diamond Point, NY
[I] have only been into amateur astronomy since Jan of this year, so this was my first convention. My wife and I, along with my Son and His Girlfriend, arrived on Friday, spent a very enjoyable day on the grounds. We met many very nice people, spent the afternoon setting up our equipment and held our breath for a clear night. As the clouds did move out, my son and I spent the entire evening viewing, in fact I think we were almost the last ones on the hill at 3:30 am. Sat am was spent looking at the ATM entries. Sat pm’s activities were a lot of fun and a good time was had by all. We are looking forward to next year’s convention, and will definitely be there.
I am including some of the pictures we took on Fri and Sat. (See them in the Photo Gallery section)
Submitted by Dave Mitsky, member of AELC, ASH and DVAA (See Dave's images in the Photo Gallery)
My wife and I drove up to Vermont a day early this year in order to visit Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We weren't able to go there on Thursday due to the weather and an unforeseen complication. However, we had an excellent time seeing another part of the state that we hadn't visited, namely the area around Woodstock, including the Quechee Gorge (we hiked down to the bottom of the gorge) and the Simon Pearce glassworks. I talked Maura into going directly to the Stellafane grounds on the return trip, which proved to be very fortunate, since early spotty clouds gave way to a beautifully clear night. M39 was visible to the naked eye, which is usually a good indication of first class conditions, along with a number of other deep-sky objects.
I had a great time that night observing with Stellafane regulars like Al Nagler, Scott Ewart, John Vogt, Sue and Alan French, along with a number of other folks. Looking through Al's 127mm Tele Vue apochromatic refractor with twin 8mm Ethos oculars was quite a treat and the views through John Vogt's award-winning 32" ATM Dob and a nearby 28" Star Structure Dob were excellent indeed. Particularly memorable were M8, M16, M17, M20, M22, M27, M57 and its central star, NGC 7331 and its companion galaxies, the western (NGC 6960) and eastern segments (NGC 6992) of the Veil Nebula complex, NGC 7009 (the Saturn Nebula), and NGC 7293 (the Helix Nebula). NGC 891 was rather easily seen through Sue's new 160mm Astro-Physics apochromat. Jupiter was a prime target as there was a transit of the Great Red Spot early on and later a Galilean satellite shadow transit that night. Many meteors were visible throughout the night, including one that was bright enough to illuminate the ground, and the ISS made a fine pass at 10:32 p.m. EDT. I also saw the tenth magnitude comet C/2008 J1 (Boattini) for the first time through a very nice ATM 12.5" Dob. The comet was in the vicinity of Cepheus at the time and had a rather compact coma. My final view of the night was of Neptune and its largest satellite - Triton - through Scott's 12.5" ATM split-ring equatorial Newtonian, a dual first place Stellafane winner in 2005.
I hated to depart before seeing the other comet named Boattini, C/2007 W1 (Boattini), but we were both exhausted so we left Breezy Hill. We crawled into bed at the Quail Hollow Inn in Chester around 3:30 a.m.
The weather was not conducive for a journey up Mt. Washington once again on Friday so we visited the Montpelier area instead. The Rock of Ages quarry was a very interesting place to visit and we had a fine dinner at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, the smallest state capital in the United States.
Despite less than optimistic forecasts, Friday night was clear as well, although there were more clouds early on and the transparency was not quite as good. After leaving the Stellafane grounds in a state of exhaustion on Saturday morning, I slept for a couple of hours, dragged myself out of a very comfortable bed at the Quail Hollow Inn, and walked out to a clearing in the woods behind the inn with my wife's 10x50 Celestron Ultima binocular in hand. It was quite dark there and after a bit of searching through Aries I swept up the much brighter comet C/2007 W1 (Boattini), which proved to be a rather easy binocular target.
During the Saturday morning swap meet, I spent some time talking to Real Manseau, a French-Canadian who builds replicas of historic telescopes. He showed me the 2 and 3/8 inch diameter brass mirror that he ground for one of his replicas of Isaac Newton's reflecting telescope.
There were some excellent entries in the telescope competition this year. Particularly noteworthy were the two 16” classical Cassegrains built jointly by Allen Hall and Richard Parker that took the Craftsmanship, Mechanical Design, and Compound Optical first place awards. Ross Sackett’s 12.5” Dob was beautifully realized and the mighty 32” Dob constructed by John Novak was very impressive.
The weather gods were not kind on Saturday night but the spirit of Stellafane remained undiminished. It was another fine Stellafane convention this year, one that I enjoyed immensely.
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