A few weeks ago I posted a request on the OCA home
page for reports on the recent Starry Nights Festival held in Yucca Valley.
I received a note from Ed Flaspoehler, VP of the American
Association of Amateur Astronomers. He has written up a report on
SNF that can be found at the AAAA web site. Here
is the article.
I also received the following article from Craig Cuthbert,
a novice astro enthusiast. I found it fun to to read Craig's report which
brought back memories of my early days in the hobby. Can you recall your
first experiences with a telescope? How about your first star party? Thanks,
Craig. -- Russell Sipe
Image and logo above
from AAAA Web Site
Nights Festival Report
by Craig Cuthbert
My first experience
with the Starry Nights Festival was in 1997 event which was my first star
party. A friend of mine who was just getting involved in astronomy invited
me to join him. We had an excellent time camping and observing the night
sky. This year was even more spectacular.
Prior to Starry Nights
Festival 1998 (October 16-18) some friends and I went camping in the Sequoia
National Forest for a week. Don and I were experimenting with his small,
old telescope with a wobbly mount. We were having fun, but it was very
frustrating trying to observe anything with it. Little did we know that
my girlfriend Tiffany, was going to arrive later in the week with a very
special birthday present. Her gift to me was an 8" Celestron Starhopper
Dobsonian--my first telescope! I was shocked. Although, it did not come
with a finder scope, we were able to find some objects that first night
including Jupiter, Saturn, Andromeda (M31), and the Ring Nebula (M57).
The day after I returned
home, I immediately purchased upgraded eyepieces and a Telrad. I tested
out my new accessories that evening in front of my Huntington Beach home
with my friend, Ron. We were hooked! Ron enjoyed looking at the giant
planets so much that he went out the next day and purchased a Meade 4400.
Within a week he realized that this scope wasnít quite "serious" enough
for him and returned it for a Meade 8" LX50! We were now ready for the
Starry Nights Festival!
Tiffany and I arrived
at Black Rock Canyon Campground Friday evening. After setting up our campsite
we walked to where the telescopes were displayed on the concrete viewpad.
It was pretty quiet this evening, with only a dozen or so people. We looked
through a few of the scopes and saw some very beautiful objects. Rick,
one of the amateur astronomers, was very helpful and showed us dozens
of Messier objects. Tiffany and I learned quite a bit that night.
The next morning,
Ron arrived with his new telescope. At noon Ron, Tiffany, and myself drove
to the community center to hear some guest speakers. We received our raffle
tickets just in time for the drawing. We were completely blown away when
Tiffany won the starry nights raffle grand prize-- a Meade ETX astronomical
telescope! She was elated. Ron teased Tiffany, saying that this telescope
craze was all her fault, now that both Ron and I have become astronomy
addicts. So it seems that it was her turn to have her very own telescope.
We stayed at the community center for most of the day, listening to informative
guest speakers. We especially liked the presentation by David Levy.
Saturday night was
a completely different environment with 150 or more people on the viewpad!
Ron and I brought both of our 8" scopes from our camp to join the party.
Tiffany and I were so preoccupied showing objects in my scope to people
that I didnít check out any others until later that evening when the crowd
thinned out (probably from the chilly temperatures). I was delighted to
hear comments from observers saying that objects were clearer in my 8"
Dobsonian then some of the others. With help from other astronomers, Ron
was able to view many deep sky objects on his first night of dark sky
viewing. Everyone at the party was very friendly and enthusiastic. Those
who stayed up late enough were treated to a superb view of the Orion Nebula
(M42) as it rose in the east. It seemed that everyone really enjoyed themselves.
We attended three
lectures. Steven Levy was our favorite. He was a passionate speaker and
did a great job of projecting his enthusiasm about astronomy. I also enjoyed
his poetry readings intertwined with videos and slides, such as the video
of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. We also heard Gene Hansen's "Observing Variable
Stars" and Leo Connolly's "Planets Around other Stars". I enjoyed both
of these as well, however I thought they were a bit too involved for us
"newbies". We missed some of the beginner presentations on Friday due
to car problems.
This is an excellent
spot for a star party. The skies are surprisingly dark, being so close
to LA. The clear skies, altitude, and dry desert environment make for
a good combination. We did have some wind on Friday night which died down
around 10:00. Saturday night was perfect with clear skies and no wind
and many people showed up for viewing. The only real drawback about Black
Rock Canyon in October is that it gets pretty darn cold.