Observing March 20th, 2015; School Star Party March 27th 2015

On the afternoon of March 20th, 2015, I had the opportunity to get out on a decent night to observe in Utah's West Desert.  I got out early, choosing the 17.5" as my scope of choice.  I still haven't had the 17.5 out enough to have it be natural when working with it, so that was the scope for the evening.  I set up easily enough, and took pictures of the setup before having to tear it all down. As I was assembling the scope, I noticed that one of the knobs to hold a truss tube in the Moonlite holder was missing. I searched the car, every where. I searched the ground, every where. Alas, I had no luck so I knew that the scope was not going to hold collimation so I had to tear it down in order to go and purchase a 20 1/4' by 1/2" knob to replace the one that was missing. Thus began my evening of adventure. I was suppose to meet my friend Jeff there at the site, but I decided to take off to get the knob. Cell phone reception I did have but I lost Jeff as I began to travel back to the nearest city. The last I heard was that when Jeff got back to the location, it was now occupied by some party goers who had the beginnings of a roaring campfire and Jeff was moving down the road. In truth, after surveying the site myself when I was there, the amount of garbage left by shooters and others had told me that it may be time to move on from the Pit n Pole location, to a new location I have found out that way for a short incursion out.  I haven't listed it on my Google Maps yet, not sure I will. I do know that the area around 5 Mile Pass and to the west of that location is seeing more and more use and traffic out that way on weekends. So it will mean a further drive to the west to get to locations that are both darker and having less people.

Anyway, I got back to Lehi and got to a Home Depot that had some wing nuts that would work, but there was a Lowe's nearby so I went there was well. At Lowe's they had a knob, the right size but the knob itself is slightly bigger so I picked up in total, 4 wing nuts and 4 knobs to have in case this ever happens again. I should have honestly thought of this myself, and had, I just failed to listen to that inner voice that kept telling me to purchase an extra set of knobs incase this happen. So now I drove back out to the West Desert and with no hope of finding Jeff, I went to my new spot, setting up in the dark, collimating easily with the Howie Glatter laser collimator and Tu-Plug.  The only issue I have had is aligning the Stellarvue F50 finderscope using the R50D rings. I honestly did not work that out, aligning the finderscope to the main scope until after the outreach event coming up. I FINALLY have that down and will be doing a video on that as I have found very little information on that process both in the little flyer that came with the F50, and online. On site only helped me.

So that night I worked in Hyrda and I haven't taken pictures of my sketches for that evening of the galaxies I observed, but I had a rather good night with average seeing and very good transparency. I will post those sketches later. The scope worked fine minus the F50 alignment issue (I removed it and used the Telrad with a wide field eyepiece to act as my finder, a 35mm Panoptic or 24mm ES 82 degree eyepiece, and that system worked wonderful! I may keep that as I have found I don't use the finderscope that much anymore in my observing, though I do like having it sometimes for when I am going after faint items and want a wider view without changing the eyepiece. Here are the images from my initial set up (the missing knob is on the upper ring on the right side if looking at the scope from behind).  The third image is my favorite.

On Friday, March 27th, I had the wonderful opportunity to go back to my school where I work, and host a star party. My son Nathan who has been living in Italy for the last two years and is now returned back home came with me and he ran my 4 inch refractor and my XT10 dob. I took the 17.5 and learned an important lesson. The 17.5 is a great outreach tool for adults, and the kids and adults loved the views from it, but it is hard even with a good step ladder for the kids to get up to the eyepiece and view. The 14" I have is better suited for that. So from now on, I will take the 14" when I do outreach.  In addition to this, Mr. Curtis, a father of several children at the school (his son is in my class and he also helped with the 4" ES AR102 refractor) had his 16" scope there and is familiar as it use to belong to Mat.  We had over 80 people come by to look at the moon, Venus, Jupiter, M42 Orion's Nebula, M45 the Pleiades, Messier 41 and the Winter Alberio.  I actually had father's and their sixth grade daughters staying to look at these objects in different eyepieces and filters in the case of M42 to compare the views, and to actually run the scope as I showed them how to use the Telrad and the eyepiece to accomplish the goal of seeing different objects.  It was a wonderful night of not only showing and telling about objects, but showing and letting people use the scope to discover things on their own. It's that doing and showing that gets people actively involved in the hobby, excited about the hobby and wanting to learn and do more. Showing is fine, and is one level of doing a star party, especially for large groups. However as the group wans showing how to use and letting a small group use a scope turns them on to getting more involved in the hobby. More astronomical groups that do outreach need to consider that as a way to grow in interest at all levels in the hobby in my opinion. Bottom line, after helping a former student and his Dad begin to learn how to use their scope, Nathan and I pulled away at 10:30pm tired, but rather excited about an excellent evening showing and doing with a group of wonderful people.