Hurricanes, Dark Skies and an International Man of Mestre
by Dan Wright
Bob Meadows and I loaded up the 25” Obsession and took it on the farthest trip it’s ever been on as we headed to the Almost Heaven Star Party in Spruce Knob West Virginia, allegedly the darkest location on the East Coast. We were under the gun to get there as the impending doom of Hurricane Irene was going to be paying us a visit soon. To break up the trip we stopped at my brother Brad’s house in Leonardtown, Maryland. My brother is a chief in the Navy and was planning on traveling with us to the star party but the Navy had cancelled all leave as the Hurricane was expected to make a direct hit on the base. (It did) As Bob made our break neck, hasty, nearly 50 miles per hour escape from Maryland, we pulled in to the beautiful area of West Virginia where the star party was held. The 25 was all set up and we got about 20 minutes of viewing in before the clouds covered the dark sky. The next day was Hurricane Irene… My little WalMart tent was well covered in a tarp I usually use for inclement weather and just luckily happened to have the front pointed away from the brunt of the storm. At 3500 feet we had 55+ mile an hour wind gusts and heavy, heavy rain bands that came in 90 minute intervals from 7:30 pm to 4:30 am. Bob stayed in his Mystery Mobile and my little tent stayed bone dry. That wasn’t the case for many camped around me as many of their tents and awnings were destroyed. Many telescopes tipped over and filled with water but our 25 stayed secure and mostly dry. At this point, we’re ready for some of these alleged dark skies. And then we had a severe thunderstorm the last day. that soaked my clothes to the bone. The skies were perfectly clear however and we were ready! Just as sunset hit the clouds rolled up from the valley below and covered us in a thick blanket of wet, cold fog. This would recede after leaving it’s moist residue behind and once again, we’re ready for the night! Of course, everything is wet, including me and the temperature has now dropped to 45. At this point the Telrad is dripping, one of the encoders has stopped working leaving the new ArgoNavis computer useless and the finder scope is dewed over. This does not stop “Goto Bob”. He star hops until 3:00 in the now cold, dark skies finding a new object every 15 minutes or so. I lasted like a dripping icicle until midnight… You can see some of the images of the 25 at Almost Heaven here: http://tinyurl.com/5vlszz2 Regardless, I loved the experience at Almost Heaven. The food was great, the people were interesting and when we did have dark skies they were REALLY dark but man, that’s a long way to travel in the hopes you get clear skies. We installed the new shroud on the 25 we purchased from Teeter’s Telescopes and it looks great! Carl Lancaster added that awesome new table on the back and it’s really a great piece of craftsmanship. Also, many thanks to David Ives for donating 2 computers to the Rolnick Observatory. They’re in the process now of some upgrades so we can use them in the classroom and the dome. Thanks David! Many of us are headed to the New Haven club’s Connecticut Star Party this weekend from the 23rd to the 25th. If the weather holds, it’s a fun place to see some decent speakers and check out a somewhat dark location. (Anything is better than Westport!) If it’s clear, we’ll camp and have the 25” Obsession set up but there’s lots of other amazing hardware on that field. We’ll have our monthly Member/Family/Friends star party at the Rolnick Observatory the following weekend. If the skies are clear we’ll be up there on September 30th or October 1st, depending on weather. We’ll email everyone before we make a decision on the dates. As usual, Bob is doing almost all of the work at the observatory and could really use some help. I’ve been helping out with mowing the lawn lately and fortunately haven’t yet taken to listening to 50’s Do Wap music and mumbling about classic cars… Yet.
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Our Next Public Meeting is September 20th at 8pm
WAS Welcomes our old pal, the Discovery Museum and Planetarium’sdirector of Space Science Education and all around International Man of Mestre, David Mestre. David is going southbound on the Merritt for his annual lecture at the Rolnick Observatory and of course, he’s been as busy as ever. This year he’s talking about the future of amateur satellites as well as the high altitude balloons that get these little cubsats lifted to the upper atmosphere. Space exploration is moving to the private sector and David will explain how you too can run your very own space program! Yes, there will be apple cider. Bob Meadows is scheduled for the October meeting with his annual Stellafane and Star Party report!
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ASTROWEB SITE OF THE MONTH
by Cal Powell
Do you have a pair of those red/blue 3D glasses? If you do, here are some web sites that you should experience while wearing them. NASA’s STEREO Mission 3D page at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_
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by Bob Meadows
Bob Meadows and Dan Wright took the 25 inch telescope to the Almost Heaven Star Party in Spruce Knob, West Virginia, August 26-30. Friday and Sunday were mostly cloudy. Saturday was rainy and windy from hurricane Irene. Monday night was humid, but clear all night. A seismograph was installed in an in-ground vault behind the benches. There have been some internet problems, so we installed a timer on the modem and router, which resets them 4 times a day. A Star Party took place on Saturday Aug. 20. About ten people attended. We used the 25 inch to view comet Garradd, Globular clusters, Planetary Nebulas, Uranus, and Neptune. The only damage from hurricane Irene at the observatory was one tree and a lot of leaves and branches on the hill leading up to the observatory.
September 21 Bob Blasko David Ives *Franco Fellah
28 Mike Bellacosa Bob Tobin *Carl Lancaster
October 5 Karl Procop Frankl Cirino *Bob Meadows
12 Tom Davis Nick LaRocca
19 Bob Blasko K. Moskovitz *Dan Wright
26 Mike Bellacosa David Ives *Carl Lancaster
November 2 Bob Tobin Frank Cirino *Franco Fellah
9 Tom Davis Karl Procop
16 Bob Blasko K. Moskovitz *Dan Wright
23 Mike Bellacosa Nick LaRocca *Carl Lancaster
30 Bob Tobin David Ives *Bob Meadows
Please call Bob or make arrangements for someone to cover your shift if you can’t make it. We’re counting on you.
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Bookmark www.was-ct.org/ for semi-regular updates and now you can follow the Rolnick Observatory on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates on our speakers and current sky events! We are an all volunteer society that is financially responsible for everything at the Rolnick Observatory, and we are always short on money. Remember, there are lots of ways to help support WAS other than cash donations. Recently we teamed up with North American Power, a deregulated energy supplier in Connecticut that has significantly lower rates than all of the utilities, now with rates of just .0899 kWh. Many of our members, including the Rolnick Observatory, are now NAP customers. North American Power will donate $10 to WAS for every home or business that signs up. You’ll save a bunch off your UI or CL&P rates by switching now. The only way to get WAS the donation is to call Dan Wright at (203) 424-0001 if you’d like to lower your bill and help WAS out at the same time. Check out the new WAS Wear Store that’s great for the Star Parties!