One of the best ways to shop for that next telescope — whether it’s your first or your tenth — is to go to an event like the Winter Star Party, where observing conditions are (usually!) great. Amateur astronomers bring all types of telescopes, and during a night of observing most will let you look through them. For me, it’s like the proverbial kid in a candy shop. My problem is pulling myself away from one scope and moving on to another.
The WSP also provides attendees an opportunity to see the latest telescopes and accessories from telescope manufacturers like Celestron, Meade, Orion, Tele Vue, and Vixen. It’s not unusual to find Tele Vue’s Al Nagler wandering the observing field at night, demonstrating his latest eyepieces. A couple of years ago we were observing with a Tele Vue MP127 (a 5-inch apochromatic refractor) and “through the shadows” came “Uncle Al” with the latest Tele Vue eyepiece in hand. Of course, marvelous views and great conversation followed.
The weather this year has not been as pristine as in past years. But compared to what others are dealing with nationwide, I’ll take it! Monday night was filled with clouds and teaser holes. Tuesday night brought rain and wind gusts up to 40 mph. Last night was the first good night — but we were still up against 16 mph winds out of the north. I used the night to set up and align my telescope for photography using a series of Canon digital SLRs, including the Canon 5D Mark II, a 21.2 megapixel full-chip camera. Tonight I’ll do test runs.
But last night was not a total loss for those willing to brave the wind. We had some great views of a number of deep-sky objects and Mars. It’s a treat to be able to go up and down the observing field and try out different telescopes and eyepieces.
Even if you decided the night was too windy, there’s still daytime solar observing. Barbara Harris and Howard Eskildsen were both set up observing the Sun. Solar activity has picked up, and the activity is obvious — and exciting for those of us who have been patiently waiting.
Attendees also have the option of hearing excellent presentations. Yesterday I attended an informal imaging workshop and discussion. Richard Crisp gave a great presentation on his use of various — and somewhat exotic — filters for imaging. His work with Hydrogen-alpha, Oxygen-III, and Sulfur-II filters was informative and compelling. Don Parker, always known as a witty speaker, discussed solar system dynamics from the aspect of planetary warming trends. Parker’s research — both into historic solar system data and his martian polar cap measurements — brings into the equation the obvious effect the Sun has on global warming.
Tomorrow I’ll give an update on observing and admit to my purchasing crimes, including another telescope purchase. But when you see the masterpiece I bought from Normand Fullum, I think you’ll understand why I had to buy it. I just hope my wife, Debbie, understands!
Visit our gallery of images from Mike Reynolds' trip to the 2010 Winter Star Party.
Previous blog: The 2010 Winter Star Party, Tuesday recap
Michael D. Reynolds photo