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Grand Canyon Star Party, June 8 - 15, 2013

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#26 skyward_eyes

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 10:44 PM

You can get great views through just about any scope up there!

#27 Skylook123

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 11:35 PM

That's true, but I still remember the time about five years or so ago when Roy Ang put the beta version of his latest image intensifier onto Dennis' 28" scope, and then they added the binoviewer. You tried to get me to look through it, but I didn't need to lust after more equipment. But you guys claimed you could see condos being built in Andromeda.

By the way, got my new Mallincam Junior yesterday, so of course it's overcast. First light was in the living room with the laptop and no scope.

#28 skyward_eyes

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 09:53 AM

Jim,

Have you emailed out the Star Party Information packets?

#29 Skylook123

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Posted 12 May 2013 - 10:05 AM

No, this week sometime.

#30 Skylook123

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Posted 17 May 2013 - 04:40 PM

For those who have registered for the South Rim GCSP and are anticipating your registration packages, we've had to rewrite Marker Marshall's and my welcome letters. The changes in NPS funding caused a major personnel shuffle yesterday, and we will be losing a portion of our Interpretive Ranger support (two of the three from last year will not be part of the event), and the three park aids on duty until midnight has been reduced to one park aid terminating at 9:30 PM. We need to rewrite a bit, and some of us will need to pick up a few minutes of the setup/takedown tasks. I'll get the packages in the email this weekend.

#31 azpalmer

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Posted 18 May 2013 - 11:58 AM

Jim,

As always, our RLD group will help anyway we can. Of course, we won't be there till Wed -- but will do whatever. Also, let us know setup locations that you & Marker want for our group. We should have about 10 scopes total.

#32 Skylook123

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Posted 18 May 2013 - 02:31 PM

Thanks as always, Jim. I'll send you an email with some of what we think will be improvements in the setup. Bottom line, Marker is going to have us set up differently in a way that should provide a lot more space in the main area (set up on the sides, one path up the middle, like a two sided Yavapai setup), permanent setups on the west side where a cable fence can act as part of the isolation, plus using the southwest corner for handicap access to scopes (i.e. video and SCTs set for wheel chair access) without the climb through the site - at least three of us will have video capability.

One huge problem we've had over the last two years is that when you come around the Visitor Center, with its parking lot and pavilion lighting, into our inkwell, the scopes are literally invisible as are curbs and we've had several falls off the sidewalk each night. The scopes are even invisible to me coming out from the night talks, and I know where they are! The video in the southwest corner will be a beacon, and any glare will be oriented and isolated to avoid interference with the other scopes. I would anticipate RLD might be down in the main area with all the extra space we should have; that way, Jim Sauscavage can help me improve my Mallincam Junior skills.

Although it's disappointing about losing some of the great Ranger and park aid support, but all of the astronomers have always chipped in with a few minutes of help to pull it off. At least we don't have all those forty pound sandbags to move from Yavapai!

#33 azpalmer

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 04:24 PM

Sounds good. I know I'll have an additional 6 traffic cones that have red leds in them we use for our programs -- if they'll help. Our group wants to minimize any impact on the rest of the astronomers. We look forward to seeing everyone again.

#34 BRCoz

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 06:10 PM

I am planning for next year.

#35 Skylook123

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 08:09 PM

Sounds good. I know I'll have an additional 6 traffic cones that have red leds in them we use for our programs -- if they'll help. Our group wants to minimize any impact on the rest of the astronomers. We look forward to seeing everyone again.


We'll know more after our check-out Friday night, and how we want to go. Marker has more cones from another Park agency, so we'll see how things shake out. We might try a new foot print, or stay as before with more help getting from the VC to the scopes. It really is an ink well coming around, so we'll work out what might work better.

We're all in this together. Our attempt is to make us "one group". Here is the new tent we'll use at the "information center" at Mather Aspen Loop Number 36. It will have a table with other information inside, and we're trying to get another mug shot wall going.

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#36 Skylook123

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 08:11 PM

I am planning for next year.


Got your email, Bruce. You're number four for 2014.

#37 seigell

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 10:23 PM

The changes in NPS funding caused a major personnel shuffle yesterday...


NPS really needs to learn that the "Park User Experience" is the Bigger Draw than the "Number of Park Enforcement Rangers", and find ways to overcome their "Institutionalized Stogginess" when it comes to Organized Special Events occuring in OUR National Parks.

Glad to see that they didn't simply Pull-the-Plug...

#38 seigell

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 10:32 PM

The changes in NPS funding caused a major personnel shuffle yesterday, and we will be losing a portion of our Interpretive Ranger support (two of the three from last year will not be part of the event), and the three park aids on duty until midnight has been reduced to one park aid terminating at 9:30 PM.


Does this mean that you'll have need for even more Volunteers to fill the gaps ?? Or were the Financial Considerations based on a set number of Volunteers ??

#39 Skylook123

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 12:58 PM

When a special event occurs, one of the experienced Rangers is put in nominal charge, and prepares requests for personnel support and other special considerations like changing the bus schedule or making other facility schedule changes.

Up until about three years ago, we got one primary Interpretive Ranger (now Marker Marshall, for the last seven years), one Ranger assistan since overtime was not authorized and she was required to take Sunday and Monday nights off, and three park aids for traffic control but only until about 8 PM. The astronomers handled the take down of traffic signs and opening of the restroom windows.

For our first two years at the new site, the Visitor Center commercial parking area, Marker requested more support, and got some. We had three full time Rangers (Marker, another Interp, and a loaner astronomy specialist from Desert View) and four park aids until midnight. Great support. And the Grand Canyon Association, funded by donations and sales at the park book stores, kicked in over $1400 to buy new illuminated sign boards, traffic control signs, laser pointers for Ranger sky tours, deep cycle batteries, inverters, chargers, and red rope lights for foot traffic guidance. Quite an improvement. Then this March, the $1.3 million budget cut from sequester hit, and things changed. Laura Jevtich, the astronomy seasonal Ranger at Desert View and many other seasonals were not hired back. Marker was loaned one Ranger assistant with no astronomy experience or GCSP familiarity for her mandatory off days. And we are allowed one park aid until 9:30 PM. We astronomers will have to close up shop again, although at Yavapai that meant lugging 40 pound sand bags for the traffic barriers, while now it requires rolling up and securing the sets of red rope lights, getting the inverter and batteries secured and batteries on charge, and stowing the signs closing one parking lot to keep the light intrusion away.

We actually ARE being supported quite well compared to other horror stories I've heard of long time special interest events that have lost support because the bodies just aren't available. Even some of the major environmental impact studies like a light pollution survey and remediation have had to revert to donation and special Grand Canyon Association grant funding. Several of our volunteer astronomers from around North America will miss their first event in over 15 years or more due to furloughs due to the sequester. One good friend is cut back over 20% for five months with one week notice. He thought he was moving to a better job and took a bath on a home he'd been living in for decades, and found that the selling price was high enough that he owed a big donation to the IRS as well. Double whammy. Things are tough all around, and we long term volunteers remember when we were lucky to get one Ranger and an aid.

Truthfully, I worry more about the shortage of daytime support to the visitor load. I've seen how much help that a Ranger or park aid can be in culling the confused visitor from the herd and helping the rest of the visitors proceed with their visit. Doesn't take many lost or confused folks to cause many others to be impacted. We astronomer volunteers are accustomed to carrying our load where we can, but in the heat at altitude, things will be an exercise in coping skills.

#40 Joe Bergeron

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 11:06 PM

I'll probably have a scope set up here in NY for at least some of the nights. Do you have 2,600 miles of red rope lights?

#41 Skylook123

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 01:51 AM

For you, Joe, certainly. Let's see Christo top that! Wonder how it would look from the ISS.

We could have had you Skype in your presentation on how a space artist makes the universe look good, but the projector system in the theater is inoperative for parts that are on long back order, so we'll be doing it the old fashioned way, but indoors with a portable projector and maybe even the portable speaker box. REALLY like old times.

George Barber is the one who the IRS and work furlough are conspiring to keep away from us this year. Steve Ratts claims he'll pull off Huevos Rancheros despite the missing member of the cook staff.

We may do the talks with shadow puppets.

#42 Skylook123

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 06:52 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY ONE - A Pretty Good Start

Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft elevation

Weather: Mid 90s at Noon, Upper 80s at sunset, 80 when we quit at 11 PM. Clear skies, no wind, gorgeous night.

Seeing and Transparency: Reports were pretty good; I was so busy with other activities, I never looked through an eyepiece.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior video imaging system on 10", 13.3" LCD monitor.

Starting our third year at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, some changes were made in our adventure. We changed the telescope positionings to around the outer rim with the center section for set up and take down vehicles, and pededstrian traffic during the event.

Four of us made the trip this year. Fourteen year old grandson Stephan came as the dob driver, and 16 year old Karina is the 10" SCT with video imaging. We are trying to add a new capability for GCSP this year: accessibility for those with physical and/or visual difficulties that prohibit getting to, or seeing through, an eyepiece.

We came up on Friday night and did dry runs on the theater setup and marking off the telescope setup areas. All looks well for the future.

Saturday was the usual running around getting things organized. The banner got hung at the Visitor Center. We brought a screen tent for Ginger Applegarth's information center campsite which we quickly set up.

It has been unseasonably hot this year with temperatures up in the mid 90s. I quickly went over to the site and dropped off the two telescopes. The new imaging for acccessibility mission means that the big dob will be in the permanent setup location as usual, but the big SCT with the imaging capability will be set up at the entrance, which means no permanent setup and it is quite a chore to set up not only the scope as usual, but the table, Computer Cave, dual deep cycle battery systems for the monitor, mount, and computer, and table to hold it all. NOT fun at 96 degrees.

We got set up by 6 PM, and headed into the theater to do a dry run of the setup. Because of the sequester based staff reductions, the VC now closes at 5 PM so we can take our time setting up and making sure we are ready to go for the night talk. Then was our astronomer Otter Pop gathering, where a highlight was that we got to meet Laura Williams, the new hire for a special Grand Canyon Association project to reduce the lighting environment of Grand Canyon National Park.

Speaking of GCNP, I can't praise enough about, and be amazed by, the level of effort and quality of environment provided by our lead interpretive Ranger Marker Marshall, her assistant Ty Krolovetz, and the Park Aids who did all of the setup this year, both the elliminaton of the light intrusion as well as all of the traffic barrier setup, signboard construction, schedule production, and many more activities to make this all possible.

Predicted high winds never materialized, so I quickly collimated the big dob for Stephan to use on Polars. Then it was time to head into the theater for the night talk by John Anderson. We had a special kickoff this year when the Deputy Superintendant Diane Chalfant did the introduction to GCSP 2013. Quite an honor!

John's talk is on Galactic Morphology. What sounds like a dry topic, it is always one of the top two talks in visitor response. John explained the classification of galaxies, the history of understaning galactic structure, and showed amazing imagery of interacting galaxies. John's talk runs about 25 minutes, and we often get that long of great questions from the audience. We finally broke away to get out for the scopes and constellation tour.

Unfortunately, in the rush to get all the setting up done with two scopes about 300 feet apart, I neglected to leave Karina with the information she needed to set up the mount (lat/long, time zone offset from UTC, Daylight Savings Time), and and only a rough guess on polar alignment. In addition, when we had to go in for the talk it was still to bright to get either Venus or Saturn as an initial target. Since we were supposed to be the video imaging entrance for the visitors, not a good thing to do. Luckily, set up next to us was Bill McDonald and his Mallincam setup that he has been using for outreach events at Lowell Observatory for many years so we had a fall back location for the accessibility. I felt terrible abandoning Karina to a new situation, although we had done the setup practice for three nights at home. Too many changes, though. When I got to the scope, it was not useable because of some handset errors. So I jumped on it, got all the corrections in, found out she had done a near-perfect polar alignment, (later, no drift at 400X!), used Alignmaster to get two alignment stars taken care of, then set up the camera on Saturn. Had some initital trouble; had the settings for the last item we'd imaged, M13, which takes four seconds of integration time and no shutter level control. Saturn needs the opposite; no integration, shutter at 1/1000 second at those conditions. So, when I tried to focus and just got a basketball (but good Saturnian moons), I corrected the camera settings and WOW, beautiful Saturn. Visitors were loving it, but my surprise was how much they praised the attempt at allowing people with physical and optical difficulties the chance to share the views that we normally gifted folks see in an eyepiece. Wonderful service we were offering, and we actually, first time I can remember, had wheelchair and walker bound customers. And Bill had nebula images in his Mallincam VSS with long integration times so beautiful that words can't express. My little Junior can only go to four seconds, but 35+ seconds does wonders for teaching. For some reason he kept having alignment problems, and it took five stellar alignments to get his mount under control.

Then I broke away to give the 10 PM constellation tour. Great crowd of about 45, we walked around the sky and pointed out the usual landmarks and I added the many-culture aspect of what they were observing. I later was told by a group of five that they had heard I was doing the 10 PM and remember from last year that they really enjoyed hearing the Native Anerican, North African, and Eastern Mediteranean points of view, and how the same sight has different meanings to different cultures. LOTS of positive feedback afterwards.

Got back to the imaging station, all was well, then ran over to check on Stephan, who had been alone for over two hours with the big dob. What a show he was putting on! He knows the nature of multiple/binary arrangements, had his facts dean on correct, and was discussing stellar color versus temperature. AND, telling the Navajo family story about the Big Dipper, Polaris, and Cssiopeia. Oh my, were my expectations exceeded. He had done a couple of star parties with me and the scope, but I never expected his veteran quality of interacting with all comers, especially families with young kids. SO impressive.

We started to break down the setups around 11 PM when the visitor crowd evaporated. I put chalk circles around the leg positions, so the polar and stellar alignment, focus, and camera settings should be good enough that Karina will be able to start up at sunset. And, without having to fuss with it nearly as much, we will jump over to M13. We tried, but it was straight overhead and it put the visual back in a position that fine alignmet was impossible. Earlier on, the angle will allow an alignment eyepiece to pull the target to dead center in the visual back and that image will bring tears to your eyes.

We had a great Sunday Pizza Party, now ready to rock and roll for night two.

The adventure has begun!

#43 Skylook123

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Posted 10 June 2013 - 02:08 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY TWO - A Good Ending To An Odd Day

Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about
340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft elevation

Weather: Low 90s at Noon, Low 80s at sunset, under 50 when we quit at 11
PM. Occassional clouds, gusty winds, still a nice night.

Seeing and Transparency: Pretty crisp and steady, considering the gusts.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior video imaging system on 10", 13.3" LCD monitor.

The day started out hot again. It was the day of the welcome pizza party
in the campground, which has had a menu expansion thanks to our wonderful
information coordinator Ginger Applegarth and her husband Dr. Alan Delman.
They made up some great salad to go with the pizzas. This time my wife
Susan guessed right on the number to order, although I messed up her count by
insisting on changing one of the vegetarians to sausage. Should have gone
the other way. And, amazingly, the pissas were ready a half hour early!
We had a leisurely lunch with about 40 folks, then went back to rest up and
write yesterday's report.

After dinner we hit the site around 5:30. The temperature drop was
starting to be noticeable, and occasional wind gusts were worrisome since I would
be in the theater with the night talk while Stephen would be trying to
manage the big dob. A little after 6 PM I met with our speaker, Dr. Tyler
Nordgren, Astronomy Professor at Redlands University with his PhD from Cornell
University. Tyler is also on the board of directors of the International
Darksky Association, which focuses his attention to our affects on the night
sky. A superbly engaging person to interact with, his special area of
attention is intraction of the night skies with the National Parks and
protecting and recovering the night sky environment. He is also a gifted
photographer of the night sky, as well as an artist who provided the publicity
posters for the Annular Solar Eclipse events at four of the western national
parks last year.

Although dubious about the wind, I got Stephen collimated and ready to go,
and started up the Atlas with the right coordinates and time entries. The
plan was for Karina to do the skymap handouts at the theater as usual, then
head down and do a stellar alignment, go to Saturn, and start the video
show. A very pleasant surprise was to find that, due to equipment troubles,
Bill McDonald had to leave after one night but long time GCSP participant
Wayne Thomas showed up with three cameras to help out. However, he was
missing the right adapters for mounting the cameras. My long time observing
partner, John Anderson, had an adapter that would work with one of Wayne's
cameras although it took some duck tape patchwork to complete the
installation.

Dr. Nordgren's talk is entitled Stars Above, Earth Below; Astronomy In The
National Parks. He has travelled and written extensively on the topic, and
it shows in his presentation. Not a single bullet point; just awesome
night sky pictures that unite our need for the night sky with how it is being
affected around the world by humanity. His photography of the Milky Way as
seen at various parks, and the effects of light intrusion, tell an
incredible story. We had to adjust the displays on about a dozen of the pictures
so that they would work best with the theater system, and it came out
flawless. I highly recommend buying his book Stars Above, Earth Below:
Astronomy in the National Parks, proceeds of which are going to support of the
Grand Canyon Association light footprint reduction effort here at the Grand
Cayon, which I briefly mentioned in yesterday's observing report. We
actually started half an hour or so early, so Tyler could do an astronomy Q&A
befor starting the talk. He also volunteered to do the 10 PM Constellation
Tour. I was not surprised at all around 10:30 PM to hear a huge ovation at
the completion of his tour.

Now to our adventures. The wind picked up strongly after we went into the
theater. Stephen immediately shut down the big dob. Later I check on it,
at it was a perfect stowage, with the shroud and ballast perfectly
installed. GREAT kid.

As I was immersed in Tyler's tremendous talk and tour-de-force on National
Park skies, Susan snuck in found me and told me that the wind had blown the
Computer Cave box off the velcro restraints and took the box, camera and
monitor to the pavement. Oh Joy. And also had blown so hard that it had
swung the 10" SCT against the clutches and lost it's sense of position and
whatever little mind it had. So, when we were done, I ran out to the 10"
setup and found Karina had perfectly responded; she had the mount in Park, and
the equipment was stowed. I would later check out the monitor and camera
in the lodge, no apparent damage! So we were going visual, not video. I
showed her how to recover Park with an old trick of using a bulls-eye
level, rolling weights horizontal and setting RA to 6 Hr, leveling the OTA and
setting DEC to latitude. Rolled it all back to zero indicators, perfect
park. We rechecked Polar and it was OK, not great. Did a two star alignment,
again OK, not great, but could get targets in a low power eyepiece. But
the focus was set for camera use, so we pulled off the focus motor to get
more range of motion and got focus back in the eyeball range instead of
camera. By this time, I was shivering in the cold winds and the kids were kind
of stressed out about the problems although that had each performed
perfectly. So, I called Susan and she came back to pick them up and bring me a
jacket. Then the night became wonderful for my personal interests. I went
right to the Hercules Cluster, M-13, and it was awesome at about 120X. Next
hour and a half was showtime, with a great cluster of visitors with
insightful questions as I explained the half million old stars around a
super-massive black hole they were really seeing. Despite having to totally pack up
the whole site, I was really psyched - finally some eyepiece time with
visitors. Can't wait for tonight to get back to Hercules in the video
monitor. Now THAT will bring tears to your eyes. Then, we'll try PanSTARRS and
the Dumbbell so I can see what this camera will really do. Oh, and we have
the meteor shower predicted for around 1:30 AM local time. This is due to
a long period comet that last demonstrated a shower in the 1930s, with a
Zenith Hourly Rate of 30 in a full moon. With a one day old moon, we might
be in for a real treat!

Tried some solar this morning, clouds in the way. I'm the speaker
tonight, so gotta get my act together.

The adventure continues!

#44 skyguy88

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Posted 10 June 2013 - 06:22 PM

Jim,

Wonderful Site, Wonderful group, Wonderful sky!!

I'm distressed that I had to abandon the effort after just one night. I was concerned about the adequacy of my borrowed power system for a second night, but what settled my decision to leave was the certainty of not getting back to Prescott until 3AM on Monday and being a zombie for our graduation trip to New Hampshire.

Saturday night was an adventure. In over 150 programs I've never had to redo an alignment more than once...Five tries to get it right is a real embarrassment. My guess is that I aligned on wrong stars (I might be the only guy around to complain about too many stars). What really puzzles me is that at no time on Saturday did I get the "alignment failed" message. Eventually, I smartened up and selected unequivocal stars (Arcturus, Vega...) and all was well. Late, but well. My first couple of alignment stars are normally a couple of degrees off and then it gets progressively better. I keep adding stars until one of them ends up within an arcsec or so of screen center. That usually takes 4-5 stars. So I did more than 20 stars. 20 stars worth of crawling and twisting plus a strained knee that I arrived with left me really sore the next morning.

One of the things that I missed was having a screen for presenting predark material. I use the ultra deep field, a galaxy center black hole animation, and a few other images that generate interest before the sky takes over. I had all the equipment that I need, but didn't want to use power early. Next time. Just did a recharge on the battery. The camera and display consumed roughly 17 amp-hrs. So I could have run the early display and it would have been OK for one night.

I finally got nice views of M27,8,20,51,17, a tiny fraction of the 23 object list that I had checked out a couple of nights earlier. I'm not overjoyed with the 24 inch screen (20 inches at 4X3). It's OK at 6 feet but pixilated up close. I've tried a video upscaler, Svideo to HDMI, but that didn't help much.

I was concerned about pointing the screen toward your setup. I suspect that a better solution would have put me across the entrance from you with visitor access on the outside so the screen would face away from other scopes...or I could have set up farther into the street with visitors observing from the outside. I sure don't like to have bright light in my face when I'm aligning and hate to do it to someone else.

Have a wonderful week. I look forward to doing this again with better command of power and scope and no other travel commitments.

Bill

#45 BRCoz

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Posted 10 June 2013 - 06:23 PM

Jim,

I look forward to these reports each day. I cannot wait until next year when I can attend.

#46 skyward_eyes

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Posted 10 June 2013 - 10:21 PM

Looks good Jim! Looking forward to getting up there. Ive got a new to me C14 Im bringing up so looking forward to see what it can do.

#47 Skylook123

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 02:57 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY THREE - The Wind Decides To Move In

Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft elevation

Weather: Mid 80s at Noon, 70s at sunset, DOGGONE cold and windy until 11 PM when we broke up. Clear sky, gusty winds.

Seeing and Transparency: The wind gusts are stealing the seeing. Transparency not as good as the last two nights, although my cue, Canes Venatici, had both main stars easily visible.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior video imaging system on 10", 13.3" LCD monitor.

Temperatures are definitely back to normal, but the winds are very gusty. I don't think, based on forecasts, that the big dob will be available for use for the rest of the stay.

We did the usuall setup of the Atlas and video system, without the Computer Cave. I wrapped a thin bungee cord around the thin support neck of the monitor, and hooked the ends to the slats in the observing table. Despite the heavy wind gusts, the monitor was steady while the optical tube of the SCT was shaking like a castinet.

I did the talk tonight. I call it "What's To See", an overview of what to expect at the sccopes. Brief stellar evolution, how the sun works, lunar fun facts, what a constellation is and why we have 88, what's a globular and open cluster, a galaxy, a nebula, and ending with man-made objects in space. Lot's of great questions afterward.

Got down to the scope and found a stack of problems. The Telrad was badly misaligned, which meant what Karina was aligning on was way off. And Karina was having a blood sugar event and was totally exhausted so, since Stephen had lost two nights with the big dob due to the winds, we sent Karina back to the lodge with my wife Susan and I started training Stephen in the setup.

Because we were using optical alignment prior to installing the camera, the focus was so far off the image of Saturn was invisible. I applied some tricks to blow out the image then converge back, got it all fixed, and Saturn once again was gorgeous. I left the setup with Stephen, and went away to do the 10 PM tour. Got back at 10:30, Saturn still in the monitor center, but it was so cold and windy that it was difficult to even concentrate. No visitor customers for about 20 minutes, so, rather than my original goals of going to PanSTARRS and some nebulae to see how the camera setup would do, in between the shivers we packed up and were out of there by 11:30.

When visitors see that display, despite the small image (I'm using an f/6.3 reducer to get more light on the chip), they are amazed. Quite an asset for this event!

#48 Joe Bergeron

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 03:00 PM

I hate those cold, windy nights. I hope Karina is feeling better.

#49 Skylook123

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 06:51 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY FOUR - Clouds Roll In

Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft elevation

Weather: Low 80s at Noon, Low 70s at sunset, chilly at night but completely overcast until after about 9:30, gradually clearing after we packed up.

Seeing and Transparency: Total overcast with occasional sucker holes. Later clearing after about 10 PM, but we were packed up by 10:45.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior video imaging system on 10", 13.3" LCD monitor.

Today was very interesting; the total sky coverage should have kept visitors away, but many turned out anyway.

We did the usuall setup of the Atlas and video system, same as yesterday. Then we found that the three-way splitter to get power to the mount, camera, and monitor had died. Two deep cycle batteries, only two outlets available. In a stroke of brilliance, I took the battery from the big dob cooler fans and it had a socket connector that worked for the monitor, only drawing 20 watts. We were ready, if the sky ever cleared.

Marilyn Unruh did her usual great talk; no slides, only props are a softball sized sphere on a stick, and two quarters. Her three topics were Have You Seen The Shadow Of The Earth, great examples of how the curtain of the night pulls across the sky from the Belt of Venus until astronomical twilight ends. Then came Telescopes As Time Machines, where distances to objects near and far are given scale, such as if the solar system were the size of a quarter on the ground in Colorado, the Milky Way would be the size of all North America. Finally, Using Your Five Senses At Night. No slides, great talk.

Got down to the scope and found a pretty ugly sky. Dr. Alan Delman and I did all three of the constellation tours. Well, sky tours; for the most part we had Spica, Vega, and Saturn trying to burn through, and an occasional asterism. So we handed out skymaps we usually give out at the night talk and demonstrated how to use them, then did a cultural discussion of why cultures look up, and what the got from it. Surprised the heck out of me when it went so well! Great discussions; one I really remember was a question a visitor asked about common lore among Inca/Aztec cultures, and Native Americans. I had one example relating the need of the Chaco culture to follow the moon, and noticing the July 4, 1054 supernova in Taurus (now M1, the Crab Nebula) visible for 23 days in daylight starting July 5. There is some Inca evidence of observing the event as well. Then I mentioned the Mimbres pottery symbol of the moon as an arched rabbit. But there is one moon symbol in Mimbres pottery where the rabbit appears to be dancing on a ball with small rays. It was usually thought to be the moon and sun symbols, but if the spikes on the ball are counted, there are 23; the same number of days the supernova was visible in daylight. The person who asked the question about common lore, has a Mimbres pottery piece with that very symbol, and the crowd was very impressed. So we did more cultural talk about elements breaking through the clouds, and Alan was sharp enough to point out that the crescent moon was breaking through the clouds. Amazing what we could accomplish in 30 minutes with no sky to speak of. We mixed in a little Navajo, Greek, Seminole, and other cultural elements as sucker holes started opening. Quite successful event, I must say.

I got back to the scope, and found that Susan, Stephen, and Karina were ready to quit, and my feet were killing me too, but the sky was clearing. We packed up anyway; of the 35 telescopes starting the night, about 30 were still there and visitors were arriving in small groups. Astronomy under the clouds, great group of volunteers who stuck with it. And the clouds helped Wayne Thomas get a great view of Saturn in his monitor; the reduced illumination matched his 30hz frame rate perfectly.

As much as I wanted to experiment, we were all physically depleted so we packed and left the site about 11 PM, and I saw at least a dozen scopes at work with visitors. Tough fight, but we won the battle.

#50 Skylook123

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 01:58 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY FIVE - Clouds Roll Out

Location: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, South Rim of Grand Canyon, AZ, about 340 miles north of home in Tucson, about 7000 ft elevation

Weather: Low 80s at Noon, Low 70s at sunset, 60s during our time there tonight. Sky was mostly covered until about 10 PM, then exploded in glorious starlight.

Seeing and Transparency: Sucker holes early, clearing quite a bit after 10 PM. Seeing, despite the upper layer winds, was almost as good as last weekend. Moisture still interfered a bit, but better than the last few nights.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior video imaging system on 10", 13.3" LCD monitor.

Just as yesterday, the early total sky coverage should have kept visitors away, but many turned out anyway.

Wayne Thomas rescued us during setup. He had a spare splitter, so I was able to run the mount, monitor, and camera from the two deep cycle batteries. Once again, we were ready for the sky to clear as predicted.

My counterpart for GCSP from the National Park Service, Interpretive Ranger Marker Marshall, did her perfect presentation: Starry, Starry Nights, the universe as seen from Grand Canyon National Park. It is sort of a basic introduction to the structure of the solar system and Milky Way, factually rich yet expressed in a way to give a feeling of distance and comparative size of common visible artificats of the Grand Canyon night sky. I always learn a lot from her style and construction of presentation; great skills to learn from a professional.

Back at the scopes, the sky was still mostly obscurred by cloud but my wife Susan had the scope on Saturn, and it was a beautiful view. With the blockage of the sky so extreme, I decided not to interrupt and start the video since the 9PM sky tour was about to start. I went over to help Alan Delman with the tour; he was baking the cake, my job was to put the cultural frosting on the physical sky descriptions. We had various sky elements popping in and out, so we were able to do a good job at the physical nature of the sky, and wrap it in a bit of how other cultures would look at what we were now seeing.

I stuck around and did the 9:30 and 10 tours, and the sky was rapidly opening up. The Milky Way, rising above the trees, was starting to scream at us to look in wonder. The southern end, in Sagittarius, surprised one visitor because it cast a small shadow. Those to groups got the "gift" of being able to brag about looking at a black hole, the core of our galaxy. The understood that they couldn't really "see" the black hole, but now they could brag that they looked toward one. We were able to touch on the nature of looking to the sky to bring a real or imagined structure to life, as cultures have always been called to do. The Seminole concept of the Great Rift in the Milky Way looking like arms, and the comfort it brings in this season to see it rise and imagine that the Great Spirit has his people protected in his arms, gets a great reaction. With the opening and closing of the sky at various times, ending with a mostly wike open view, allowed all three groups to get both the physical structure of the ecliptic, Polaris, precession of the poles, core of the galaxy, and the last two groups got the extra benefit of the North Galactic Pole being quite visible next to Mel-111, the Coma Berenices Open Cluster (plus the legend of it's origin). VERY enthusiastic groups who joined us despite the early skies being obscured.

I got back to the scope, and because the wind had died down grandson Stephen had started up the big dob. He had wanted to know which eyepiece to use, so at the start of the 9:30 tour I told him to take and eyepiece I knew was a 26mm wide angle. He took the wrong one, a 9mm Nagler, and was showing a humongous Saturn but having to ladder climb every three visitors to recenter. He had been hiking most of the day, his legs were giving out, so he went over to Polaris and did his multiple star show.

Meanwhile, with Susan and granddaughter Karina having left, I said what the heck, and fired up the video. This is always a bit of a thrash since the focus has to be so extremely adjusted but I got it in and it was a screamer. So, for the first time with this object, I switched on the internal zoom and the doggone thing filled about 20% of the 13.3" monitor. Visitors marvelled at the huge view, lucky shot on the focus, Cassini division in plain sight, great shadow band on the planet, and a nice V shadow against the rear ring plane. Oh WOW.

Then the usual equipment gremlin. Karina and used a velcro tie to take up some of the slack in the dual power/data line from the camera, and I went to try the Hercules Cluster. In the dark I hadn't noticed the cord path, and the cluster was in the same meridian as Saturn so the mount did not follow the cord unwrap algorithm. Luckily, I noticed what was happening just in time and was able to catch the camera in mid flight as the cord pulled it out of the visual back. Good thing I hadn't tightened it too snugly. But the adventure killed the 12V power cord. Had a spare, swapped it out, gave up on M13 since I had to be on the ground to center it overhead, and Stephen helped pack up. It was 1 AM! Totally lost track of time, but Saturn was SO gorgeous in the monitor it was worth it.

Getting ready for a public service outreach we do every year over at the Kaibab Learning Center, where I'll set up on the Moon with the SCT, and Sun in the Lunt, (Video on this one), and do some teaching before tonight's show.

Can't wait to get back to other video treats tonight!!






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