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General Astronomy >> Outreach

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skyward_eyes
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Re: Grand Canyon Star Party - June 21-June 28 2014 new [Re: Skylook123]
      #6593360 - 06/20/14 08:43 PM

All set and ready. We'll see you Wednesday as usual.

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rockethead26
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Re: Grand Canyon Star Party - June 21-June 28 2014 new [Re: skyward_eyes]
      #6595590 - 06/22/14 11:40 AM

Jim,

My wife and are are making a last minute trip to the south rim tonight for a birthday dinner at El Tovar. We'll see you over at the viewing area tonight. Hopefully I can find you.


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Skylook123
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Re: Grand Canyon Star Party - June 21-June 28 2014 new [Re: rockethead26]
      #6595716 - 06/22/14 01:30 PM

Quote:

Jim,

My wife and are are making a last minute trip to the south rim tonight for a birthday dinner at El Tovar. We'll see you over at the viewing area tonight. Hopefully I can find you.




GREAT. I'll be in the theater until around 9 PM, then out at the scope. I'm set up at the entrance to the observing site behind the Main Visitor Center, in a roped off area for the video setups. Right now, I'm the furthest back of three setups, look for the tall blue Meade 10" SCT. My grandson will have the Teeter over on the opposite side of the lot with the big scopes. There are three Teeters at least; my 18", John Anderson's 14", and Kevin Koski's 14.5", one of the earliest Teater's built.


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Skylook123
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Grand Canyon Star Party - Day 1, Clouds and Wind new [Re: Skylook123]
      #6595767 - 06/22/14 02:12 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY ONE - Cloud Chasing

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

Weather: High 70s at Noon, Low 80s at sunset, 55 when we quit near Midnight. Total overcast during the day, some thinning at sunset, gusts near 30 mph until sunset, gradual and intermittent clearing from about 50% to 85% cloud by 10 PM.

Seeing and Transparency: OK to mediocre on rapid cycles; I held Saturn in video at over 620X but focus was very tough at times.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs (unused due to gusts)
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior PRO video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor.

This began our fourth year at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Setup was similar to last year, with the telescopes around the perimeter and foot and astronomer vehicle traffic up the middle. We added a rope isolation zone for the video, to keep the pedestrians from cutting through and tripping on cables, and to allow us to stay set up instead of breaking down every night.

Four of us made the trip this year. Fifteen year old grandson Stephen came as the dob driver and all-around work horse for night setup of the lighted cones and traffic control, and 17 year old Karina to assist Ranger setup for the night traffic as well. Both also helped with the night talk, handing out star maps to the theater entrants.

After checking into the lodge, Stephen and I dropped off the two telescopes. The big dob is in the permanent setup location, and the big SCT with the imaging capability is set up at the entrance to the site. We returned Friday night and did dry runs on the theater setup and marking off the telescope setup areas. The theater is awaiting delivery of repair components and is not in use during the day, so they set up for us in the old fashioned way; a projector at the back of the room fed by VGA video from a laptop, and if sound is needed, a jury rigged PA speaker using the earphone jack. The dongle for the slide clicker would not work in Dr. James Rice's MAC laptop so I would be slide flipper in the back for talk. After the theater checkout, I set up the 10" and did a polar and stellar alignment; looked ready to go. It took two and a half hours, because walk through traffic had visitors playing "ask the astronomer" in the dark. Our lead Interpretive Ranger, Marker Marshall, walked me back from the theater to my setup with her flashlight, and immediately started to "service the interrupts" from a family group of four, who were leaving the next day and wouldn't get to the main event, so Marker gave them a walk around sky through the holes in the clouds. Then Marker left, and I finished the setup and started the alignment. Several groups of pedestrians came walking through, and, since standing was preferable to contorting myself doing the manual star alignment, I ended up discussing the night sky with about 16 visitors. Finally finished setup about 11:30 PM and headed back to the room.

Saturday was the usual running around getting things organized. Stephen helped me hang the banner at the Visitor Center, and we brought a screen tent for Ginger Applegarth's information center campsite which we quickly set up. I later hear that the winds blew it across the camp area, but it eventually got repositioned and stabilized.

Jack Huerkamp from Mallincam USA was setting up next to me, and it was a great experience to just yak about things. He had quite a complement of equipment to dazzle visitors.

I finished set up by 6:30 PM, and we headed into the theater to do a dry run of the setup. Everything was working, so back out to the 7 PM astronomer meeting and Otter Pops.

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 assistants Mike Weaver, Rader Lane and Ty Korlovetz, and the Park Aids who did all of the setup this year, both the elimination 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. They also had help from Will Golz, a recent high school grad who, with his parents, has been coming to GCSP as volunteer astronomers for many years.

The winds were well in excess of forecast for the entire day, as well as virtually total cloud cover. It was time to head into the theater for the night talk by Dr. James Rice. We had a special kickoff this year when the Deputy Superintendent Diane Chalfant did the introduction to GCSP 2014. Quite an honor!

So was getting Dr. Rice to talk for two nights. NASA astro-geologist specializing in the exploration of the Solar System, especially the Moon and Mars. Geology Team Leader for the Mars Exploration Rover Project (Spirit and Opportunity), he also worked on the Mars Odyssey Orbiter and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Projects. In addition he has performed Mars landing site selection and certification activities for every NASA Mars Mission since Mars Pathfinder in 1995. A NASA astronaut finalist, nine time recipient of the NASA Group Achievement Award, and elected a Fellow of the National Research Council, his Saturday talk was on Mars Rover results, including data less than 24 hours old, while his Sunday talk will be on the Apollo program and what we accomplished and learned. The Mars talk was fascinating, and the audience asked many great questions related to the results and direction of current and future explorations.

Back out at the site, we found about 50% or more of the sky had cleared, and business was booming. Jack and Mike were working their imaging systems, and I powered up to join in. We all had equipment issues, but finally overcame them. After replacing a dead power cable I found my alignment from the night before was useless. Nearly perfect polar alignment, my star alignment was at least five degrees off so I couldn't get Hercules Cluster or The Ring like I wanted. I pulled out all the focal reduction, jumping from f/3.2 to f/10, and hand slewed to Saturn for the night. At over 620X, it was dead center and stayed there. By now, with all the issues, it was 10 PM, time for my constellation tour so I left Stephen with Saturn and started the tour.

The sky had cleared nicely, so I was able to do my full cultural and cosmological tour. Great group of about 16 people, easy to work with that size crowd. We walked around the sky and pointed out the usual landmarks and I added the many-culture aspect of what they were observing. Headed back to the scope, and Saturn was still there! Because of the high power, I couldn't get the focuser motor onto the knob or would have lost the image, so focus was not great but now that I have the system configured, I'll put the motor on and have a great view tonight.

Too windy to use the big dob, we stuck with Saturn until the crowd evaporated and we shut down. I can't get over how gorgeous Jack's images from his Mallincam Extreme of so many objects were that he was showing off. He had a great alignment, and was able to hop all around Sagittarius eye candy, and then over to The Sombrero, Bode's Nebula/Cigar Galaxy (M82), and with the f number less than 2 with the Hyperstar, he had about a 1.5 degree FOV. Just awesome images in the multiple displays he was demonstrating for the multitude.

A great talk by Dr. Rice, good recovery with my setup, a very nice constellation tour that could be a lot more personal with less than the usual fifty or so, and those jaw dropping views in Jack's multi screen displays has me charged up to fix the alignment tonight and show off my own eye candy.

Heading over to the Sunday Pizza Party, charged up for Dr. Rice's Apollo talk, and ready to rock and roll for night two.

The adventure has begun!


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Skylook123
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Re: Grand Canyon Star Party - Day Two, A Great One new [Re: Skylook123]
      #6597491 - 06/23/14 01:27 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY TWO - Close To Perfect

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 70s at Noon, Low 70s at sunset, 40ish when we quit near Midnight. Patchy clouds during the day, clearing after sunset, gusts around 20 mph until around 9:30 PM.

Seeing and Transparency: The gusts early on made it hard for me to judge, but seemed very good in the few early moments of calm. I again held Saturn in video at over 620X, a feature of the aperture and speed of the big SCT combined with the effective focal length of the MCJR PRO, but great focus was really impossible. Way over driving the instrument.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs (unused again due to gusts)
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior PRO video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor.

Tonight started in a very disappointing way due to the weather, but despite the sleep deprivation and low temps, it became my best night I can every recall with a telescope, all due to the astounding performance of the camera, when nailing the settings.

We had our annual pizza party in the campground, and it was great to see everyone again. Our speaker for the two nights, Dr. James W. Rice, came and I stayed an hour and a half longer than I planned. I had thought about running out and setting up the Lunt for some daytime public outreach, but it was so fascinating to listen to Jim's historical information I just couldn't break away from the picnic table. And then I noticed that the clouds had blown in anyway, so it was win-win.

With sunset so late now that we are at the end of June, the planets have not yet become visible when we need to go into the theater to get ready for the night talk so my setup was inert when we went in, leaving Jack Huerkamp as the lone video setup. I came out and jumped on Saturn and we were showing the planet in about 10 minutes.

I shut things down so I could run over and do the 10 PM constellation tour. Went great, folks loved it, and I headed back to the scope.

Being so frustrated at looking over my shoulder at the tour-de-force that Jack was showing, all over Sagittarius, Sombrero, Whirlpool, on and on, I said what the heck, and redid the alignment, this time using the MCJR PRO and cross hairs on the monitor, at 620X. I used a three star to account for any cone error in the setup and used Merak, Spica, and Vega. Then I configured the system for f/3.2 to deep sky, and re-centered on Vega to adjust focus at the new light path. I set the camera for 2.1 seconds integration time to pick out the trace of The Ring, selected it, and holy cow, dead center. I installed the wireless controller, upped the integration time to five seconds, and the beautiful object was there. I realized I still had AGC Off, so I set it at 3, zoom to 1.8, and adjusted the white balance and an awesome Ring was alive, the size of a nickel in the monitor, with BOTH central stars visible.

Then, magic. I selected the Dumbbell, and bang on dead center. I set the integration to seven seconds, and the beauty of the object was not to be believed. In the 19" monitor, it filled a third of the vertical space and about 20% of horizontal. The diaphanous curtain of the giant apple core was one of the best views I have ever seen in astronomy. The air temperature was down around 45 degrees by now when I noticed one other fantastic effect; only three or four hot pixels. Down in Tucson, there would have been one hundred or more. No filters, no hot pixel elimination, no dark flat, nothing...just one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life in astronomy.

Meanwhile, Jack was having some problems with his Celestron mount similar to what I've had for a year or more with my Atlas, but somewhat worse. In my case, being on my third hand controller in seven years, I sometimes get all black squares across my display face. The only way to reset is to pull the cable and reinstall, and the screen comes back but it's lost alignment data. It does remember stepper motor positions, so it can be parked, or realigned. In Jack's case, his hand controller was giving him a blank screen, then reinitializing so he had to go through a realignment. His recovery, though, is much quicker than mine because of his Celestron automated alignment routine, while mine uses the Synta firmware that takes what seems like forever.

All in all, a great ending, ready for Monday and better weather

Edited by Skylook123 (06/24/14 02:15 PM)


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rockethead26
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Re: Grand Canyon Star Party - June 21-June 28 2014 new [Re: Skylook123]
      #6597963 - 06/23/14 05:56 PM

Quote:

Quote:

Jim,

My wife and are are making a last minute trip to the south rim tonight for a birthday dinner at El Tovar. We'll see you over at the viewing area tonight. Hopefully I can find you.




Quote:

GREAT. I'll be in the theater until around 9 PM, then out at the scope. I'm set up at the entrance to the observing site behind the Main Visitor Center, in a roped off area for the video setups. Right now, I'm the furthest back of three setups, look for the tall blue Meade 10" SCT. My grandson will have the Teeter over on the opposite side of the lot with the big scopes. There are three Teeters at least; my 18", John Anderson's 14", and Kevin Koski's 14.5", one of the earliest Teater's built.




Jim,

Sorry we missed you. We looked thru all of the other Teeters and checked back 3-4 times at yours, but it was covered up until we left at about 10 PM. Heard you were strolling around with your grand kids and enjoying yourself.

We spent a little while in line at the large off-set newtonian across from where you were set up and viewed M13. The owner is quite a character and entertained the crowd well. Wind was a bit relentless.

Maybe next time!


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Skylook123
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Re: Grand Canyon Star Party - June 21-June 28 2014 new [Re: rockethead26]
      #6598133 - 06/23/14 07:53 PM

Yeah, the wind kept my 18" in the shroud. At f/5, that secondary cage is quite a wind vane above 10 MPH or so. From 7:30 to 9 I was in the theater for the night talk, ran out and set the video scope on Saturn, did the planetary lessons until 10 PM, then went around to the big lot to do the constellation tour, came back to video at 10:30, did a three star alignment 'cause my 10" was lost in space, then, until after midnight did the Ring and Dumbbell, AWESOME in the 19" monitor.

My wife was babysitting the 10" until I came out or the theater, then headed back to the rooms with Karina who was pretty tired, while Stephen stayed with me and helped me pack up around 12:30.

The 14" Teeter with the red light string around it has my old mirror in it. John, the owner, and I have been observing partners since 1995 when we were the first two test directors on Iridium satellites. Back in 2003, three of us did a three way rotation; the owner of the 18" mirror in my Teeter, John's then 12.5" Orion dob, and my 14".

Catch you later.


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Skylook123
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Re: Grand Canyon Star Party - Day 3, Great Again [Re: Skylook123]
      #6599462 - 06/24/14 02:27 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY THREE - Perfect Telescope Performance

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 70s at Noon, Low 70s at sunset, upper 30s when I quit near 12:30 AM. Totally clear all day and night, early gusts around 20 mph ending at sunset.

Seeing and Transparency: About the best I've ever seen here. We are having magnitude 6.5 skies using an SQM. Still a little moisture up high, using Canes Venatici as a guide.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs (unused due to collimation)
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior PRO video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor.

With the success the previous night on The Dumbbell, I left the SCT and Mallincam JR PRO configured of Deep Sky Objects, operating at f/3.2 and not for Saturn.

My long time observing partner, John Anderson, was speaking on galactic classification, and did his usual engaging talk, generating a lot of questions about astronomy topics afterwards while I hurried out to the scope. Prior to leaving for the talk, I had initialized the setup and had it point to M13 so that, while we were inside, with luck my wife Susan would have the object appear as twilight set in. We now have at least four Mallincamers set up (I frankly lost count in the rush of other activities) so the visitors are really getting quite a show at the site entrance. Unfortunately, Bill McDonald could not join us because of a bad back, but he did come up from Flagstaff to check things out. I told him it is sometimes better to enjoy looking through 45 scopes than manning one.

When I got to the scope, Susan had a view of a star field, but not the Hercules cluster. I had forgotten that the mount had a bit of polar drift, and in 90 minutes M13 had drifted off the field of view. I hit the Enter key twice to recenter on M13, and it immediately popped into the screen. I used the zoom feature from the camera at around 1.5X, and the view was large and crisp and Susan did some of the show and tell for a bit. Then I started talking globs and their nature and apparent origin, but I had to do a constellation tour shortly. She is not as comfortable with globulars as she is with planetaries (she taught astronomy for almost two decades), and she asked me to put it on The Ring. I crossed my fingers and did a GOTO to M57, and it was dead center. I adjusted the red-blue settings by a count or two, adjusted the integration time to seven seconds, and The Ring was gorgeous. Susan started her life cycle of stars lesson with the double center star very visible.

While Susan did her stellar evolution story, I went over and did the 10 PM constellation tour, extremely enoyable to delve into the physical realities and merge the information with the myths and other lore and uses of the night sky by many cultures.

Heading back, Susan left and I took over doing the show and tell. After a bit of time I moved over to M27, just as beautiful as last night. After about fifty or sixty visitors, the cold finally drove the crowd away so I tried some new targets to build my live video bag of tricks for the future. I finished the night on M51 and M82; each required a small amount of tweaking on camera and monitor settings to get each view in a satisfactory range, upping the integration time to around 40 seconds but needing to reduce the monitor brightness and contrast to clean up the view. It is always a great time to be packing up alongside Jack Huerkamp, as we yak about all sorts of topics; last night, we spent some time packing boxes and talking about our favorite rock bands. Jack's a little more into the progressive rock than I am (i.e. Rush), while I lean a bit more toward REO Speedwagon, Styx, Kansas, and Boston. Does that reveal our ages, or what?

Two unfortunate equipment gremlins appeared last night. Stephen couldn't get the primary to adjust to the collimation bolts in the cell (the 30+ MPH winds blowing into the open cell might have dislodged the primary), and I had ANOTHER 12V power cord stop conducting. So today, rather than solar work as I had planned, I'll head on over to the site and see what I can to check out all of my primary and backup power cords, and see about collimating the big dob.


One more great night, ready for Tuesday and forecast of three days of good weather


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Skylook123
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Re: Grand Canyon Star Party - Day 4, Even Clearer new [Re: Skylook123]
      #6603027 - 06/26/14 02:56 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY FOUR - A Great Night Once Again

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 70s at Noon, Low 70s at sunset, upper 30s when I quit near 12:30 AM. Totally clear all day and night, early gusts around 20 mph ending at sunset.

Seeing and Transparency: Even better than last night. All of Canes Venatici is visible.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior PRO video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor.

Since the alignment from the night before was quite good, it would be possible out of the box to just go to something in daylight and let it coast until dark enough to view.

Grandkids Karina and Stephen and I went up to the site to see what was wrong with the 18" from the night before. It turned out that the strong winds had repositioned the primary outside of the sling, so there was no effect by the collimation bolts. We reset and recollimated, and all looked ready.

Then we went over to the 10" to check out 12V power cable issues from the night before. We were able to identify five good cables and two dead ones. The dead cables we'll use as tie downs for the canopy cover over the stowed 10".

It was now 1 PM, so Karina and I went out front of the Visitor Center to do some solar demonstrations. We found our iron man, Sim Picheloup, set up showing Venus so we set up nearby, using the shade of the overhang for protection with the scopes out in the court yard. We only stayed a little over an hour and had about 100 people. We did pure eyepiece, no video, this time because the haul up from the parking lot was more than we wanted to lug. Sim had been there since around 9 AM, so when he tried to change to Jupiter and it turned out to be hidden by the overhang, he quit as well.

At the site, just before sunset, I set the scope for The Ring, Susan's favorite object to talk about, and we went in for the night talk. Marilyn Unruh gave her usual entertaining no-slide-show talk on Telescopes as Time Machines, Seeing the Shadow Of the Earth, and Using Your Five Senses At Night. When she finished, I headed out to the 10" and the Ring was barely visible in twilight so I powered the wireless controller to increase the integration time from 2.1 to 7 seconds, and it jumped out of the screen in a delightfully intense blue sky.

While Susan again did her stellar evolution story, I went over to the 18" and Stephen had it set up and ready to go. I helped him get The Ring over there as well, and he was off and running. Back to the video setup, the crowd was flowing by in blocks of about 20 to 30. I hung out there until time to start my 10 PM tour and took my group of 25 around to the other lot and we did our walk about the sky. People so enjoy not only learning the structure of the night sky, but also how many cultures have used the night sky as an aid to, or in some cases the core of, their existence.

Heading back, Susan left about 10:45 PM. Our daughter in law and two more grandchildren had arrived, and everyone headed back and I took over doing the show and tell. I did have a couple of problems; actually, Susan had them just after I started the tour. The motor controller board inside the mount head had locked up, so there was no ability to communicate with the mount and the slight polar offset drifted it away from the screen after a time. Disconnecting the hand controller immediately will help recover; it will remember the stepper motor position where it is, but it loses the alignment data so that as long as it is still somewhere on the screen it can be recovered, and the Pointing Accuracy Enhancement can be invoked on the object so that part of the sky is useable, but the rest of the sky is a mystery. The tour I was doing was almost 40 minutes long, the object was really gone from view, and, for a variety of reasons it took three tries at a three star alignment (well, first Jack ran over to help Mike Carnes with his setup and ran into by balance weights, causing my controller to incorrectly say I was 7 degrees misaligned, the I kicked my own tripod while changing positions on the third star. Duh.) but finally got it all working, just as the crowd evaporated. Shut 'er down, ready for Day Five. Our Interpretive Ranger lead Marker Marshall will do the talk, Starry Starry Nights, The Universe Over The Grand Canyon.


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Skylook123
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Grand Canyon Star Party - Day 5, Cold and WIndy new [Re: Skylook123]
      #6603320 - 06/26/14 05:29 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY FIVE - Cold and Wind

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 70s at Noon, High 70s at sunset, upper 30s when I quit near 11 PM. Totally clear all day and night, but gusts close to 30 mph made it a very uncomfortable night.

Seeing and Transparency: Still extremely good, despite the surface winds. Some SQM conversions are hitting magnitude 6.9.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior PRO video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor.

Although I ended last night with a very good alignment, when I set the scope and Mallincam on The Ring before sunset and went into the theater, I came back and it was nowhere to be found. Tonight's talk was Marker Marshall's Starry Starry Night, The Universe Over the Grand Canyon. It is an awesome astronomical teaching vehicle, starting with why to reduce light pollution, going through the solar system structure and visible planets, and going onward to constellations from both the classic and multiple culture point of view, and a great discussion of the Summer Triangle constellations and true brightness of Vega and Deneb. She ends with a wonderful Monty Python lyric.
Heading outside it was cold and blustery, very uncomfortable. Susan was doing her stellar evolution story without a target. So, I did a quick three star alignment, and still nothing. Then I noticed a blinking light on the mount for low voltage, so I switched the mount over to the emergency battery and still blinking! ANOTHER bad cable. Grabbed a spare, replaced it, still bad. Finally dragged out my second last backup cable, went back to a single battery, all was well. Another three star alignment and we finally got The Ring in the center of the monitor.
With the arrival of John Suscavage, we are truly a Mallincam corner although Michael Carnes stayed back at the trailer tonight. Jack Huercamp's setup is a terrific balance of capability and teachability. With three moderate monitors, he is able to do a great job demonstrating the camera and the uses. With John Suscavage on the opposite side of me using a Mallincam Jr. that he operates to perfection, and my MCJR PRO and The Ring or Dumbbell in the 19" monitor, and Jack with his great setup, the visitors are getting a real treat.

All of the time spent getting the mount back and working as it should ate up the time to the ten PM constellation tour, so I hurred over and we had our night of cultural astronomy.

I got back to our Mallincam corner, and wife Susan was still going strong, the Ring was still dead center, so I took over for her and she and my daughter-in-law took the four grandkids back to the room. The weather being so cold and blustery is beginning to wear on all of us. The visitor crowd was about gone, the rest of the Mallincamers were wisely packing up, so I, too, started shutting down since I had to be up early the next morning for one of my favorite events here, an outreach at the Kaibab Learning Center where Sim Picheloup, Marker Marshall, and I will be doing our solar and planetary show for the three to seven year old children at the Center.


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Skylook123
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Re: Grand Canyon Star Party - Day 6, Almost Rain new [Re: Skylook123]
      #6604880 - 06/27/14 05:31 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY SIX - Cold and Wind

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 70s at Noon, Mid 70s at sunset, Low 40s when I quit near 11 PM. Totally overcast most of the day, once again very annoying gusts that made it quite chill.

Seeing and Transparency: Good enough to get great images once again with the MCJR PRO.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior PRO video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor.

Today we had a request to work with the three to seven year olds at the Kaibab Learning Center. Although it was totally overcast, Sim Picheloup set up his binocular chair, while granddaughter Karina and I set up the Lunt solar scope. The young ones came out in two groups; eight students from advanced five year olds through a seven year old, then eight from three through five. What to do with a solar scope and no sun? I had the little ones look at the size of each others' eyes, and the 60mm size of the Lunt aperture, and explained how it was letting in much more light to help us see better. I also had my little mascot, a stuffed gray dinosaur we call Scopasaurus, who heard we sometimes look way far away at light the started out when his kind were walking on Earth, and he wanted to pictures of his old friends. Plus, he cries when I leave him in the truck, so we had Scopasaurus join us. Because we had no day sky to work with, I gave each of the 16 children a solar tattoo our club had made up to give out at the Tucson Festival of Books. It was a Lunt 90mm solar image we had Kitt Peak National Observatory take for us and we had an artist turn it into a tattoo with some words around the outside. The kids loved the yellow orange disk with sunspots, filaments, and faculae along with some prominences on our picture.

The sky stayed overcast most of the day, but forecasts were for clearing around sunset so some astronomers were setting up when we went in to set up for the night talk. This time it was me doing how a telescope works. Worst talk of my life. I was using a new to me slide clicker, and I had my finger on the wrong row of buttons so I was bouncing the slides around in and out of special effects for the first few slides, then finally figured it out. Was so discombobulated I felt I was really inadequate for the task, but we got through it.

When I got out to the scope I had to set up from scratch since I hadn't set up before the talk because the sky looked doubtful. I finally got the alignment done, went to M57, nothing on the screen. It was 10 PM, time to run away and start the tour.

The tour went very well, even though the threatening weather earlier kept the crowd size down. But they seemed to like the different ways I was showing them how to look at the sky, especially the experiences of other cultures and how they used the sky.

Got back to the setup, and on a whim I checked parameters and I has the wrong integration time on M57. As soon as I set five seconds in, the sky was screaming alive, and The Ring was dead center. By this time, visitor flow had totally stopped so I hopped around to a few other objects, dead center and gorgeous all of them. But, Karina and I were alone, we were sleep deprived, so John Suscavage, Wayne Thomas, and Karina and I all just packed up and headed back at 11:30 PM to fight another day.

The Mallincams in our corner have been superb. Can't wait for more fun tomorrow night.


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Skylook123
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Re: Grand Canyon Star Party - Day 7, GREAT Weather new [Re: Skylook123]
      #6606050 - 06/28/14 01:54 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY SEVEN - Finally Great Weather

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, Mid 80s at sunset, High 60s when I quit near Midnight. Totally overcast most of the day, once again very annoying gusts that made it quite chill.

Seeing and Transparency: Best so far on seeing. Transparency is about 98% as good as last night, but the camera doesn't care.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior PRO video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor.

I wanted to get some daytime solar observing in, but it just didn't happen. This sleep deprivation is hard enough to work around, but the good influence on timing of daytime activity is that of meeting with other astronomers over in the Canyon Cafe. Twelve years ago when I started writing a daily log of happenings at GCSP, I would do it in the room and use the phone line to dial up a web connection. When the wireless capability was installed several years ago, I sort of set up shop over in CC and wrote over there. It's so much better to have the contact with others of us up here, and not stay isolated in the room.

The weather has changed. Beautiful blue skies with just a hint of a puffy white visitor passing through. Still moderately high winds, though, at 20+ MPH during the day.

After writing yesterday's report and visiting with folks, there was not enough time to set up for solar so we just headed up to the site. The wind was dieing down, so we checked out the 18" scope and found that the focuser was not square with the secondary. I tried adjusting it but I was missing one of the allen wrenches. After fussing around a bit, I went over to get the 10" ready. I unloaded the S-Video and wired controller so I could start taking some images, if time allowed. And time was running away from us; we needed to get into the theater to check out the setup for our speaker, Dr. Andy Odell, retired Emeritus Professor from Nothern Arizona University who now does reasearch at Lowell Observatory and does public outreach at Lowell as well. With Dr. Alan Delman doing the 9 PM tour, and Dr. Odell doing the 9:30 tour, Marker Marshall said she'd do the 10 PM event so I would stay with the video setup. The theater seemed ready to go, so we went back for the Otter Pop gathering.

Time really got away from me. Although I was set up over at the video area, I wasn[t powered up or pointed where Susan needed it to be, and it was time to run in for show time. Andy's talk was on Stellar Clusters and Solar Evolution, and we needed to kick it off. We were full by 7:50 PM, so we kicked of the show somewhat early.

Dr. Odell's talk was a fascinating comparison of the inner workings of a star, compared to how members of a cluster show the signatures related to their size and age. Starting with the Hertsprung-Russell diagram to illustrate, in effect, the family portrait of stars and how we can characterize and classify what we see. Then he jumped into the forecasting of stellar phenomena from the inside out, as the star goes through its evolution. Unfortunately, the software routine he had on his computer to implement the stellar forecast equations to derive the appearance of specific stellar members of a cluster would not transmit the results over the VGA hookup, but his wealth of cluster photographs allowed him to make the point of determing the age and nature of the cluster and its members told the story visually.

As the talk was ending, I ran out to my setup to get it working. Powered up the mount, set the time of day, did a GOTO to the Ring, set the integration time to six seconds, and bang, there it was on the screen in less than 90 seconds from my arrival. I went through the stellar evolution story, and how our sun would be a similar artifact in about 6 billion years. The crowd at my station was amazed at the glorious colors of the crisp planetary nebula. A reporter writing an article for a New Mexico travel magazine interviewed me during my discuss, bringing out the why we do this every year. We want our visitors to "take home a piece of the Grand Canyon": the night sky environment. Getting their own light footprint under control, to minimize excess lighting and its effect on the natural environoment, generation of greenhouse gasses, and the cost of providing and maintaining excess capacity we all pay for.

For the next couple of hours I went from The Ring to The Dumbbell (upping the integration time to 15 seconds woke up The Dumbbell into a huge blue-green ionized oxygen hourglass and outer red ionized hydrogen rim), the remnants of the end of the stellar evolution of an average sized star. Then I wandered over to M51, the Whirlpool interacting galaxy pair, and upped the integration time once again to about 40 seconds. It filled the verical axis of the 19" monitor beautifully, with the spiral arms of larger member very distinct and showing the distortion of the interaction.

By now, the crowd had virtually evaporated. But, I had used the two and a half hours to not only describe the evolution of the planetary nebulas, I was able to get in the legend of Orpheus and the Lyre, as well as the visual Milky Way, both the Greek and Navajo points of view of Sagittarius and leading into the galactic halo and our own galaxy's black hole. The picture on the screen was a great introduction to the night sky environment, and with close to 300 visitors in two and a half hours, a lot of information was gathered and minds opened to the nature of our universe.

Grandson Andrew helped me pack up, and we headed back. Only one night left, and I feel like we just started.


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rockethead26
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Reged: 10/21/09

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Re: Grand Canyon Star Party - Day 7, GREAT Weather new [Re: Skylook123]
      #6606467 - 06/28/14 08:00 PM

Jim,

Did your 18 get much use or was it just too windy every night? Seems like all your efforts went into the Mallincam setup which seems to be a crowd pleaser when it's working.


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Skylook123
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Reged: 04/30/05

Loc: Tucson, AZ
Re: Grand Canyon Star Party - Day 7, GREAT Weather new [Re: rockethead26]
      #6608176 - 06/29/14 09:01 PM

We could have used it for three nights, five if it was me. But my 15 year old grandson Stephen was going to run it since he's done shows with it for the last three years, VERY good with families with kids and a tremendous help with us. Last year he and his older sister were decorated by the National Park Service for their dual Ranger help during the days and extremely adept night discussions. In Stephen's case, he keys in on planetary evolution on the Ring and Dumbbell, and multistar demos on Mizar, Albireo, and Polaris, and it would be unfair to have him use it with those gusts. However we only used it on two nights because on the Friday night I went to check collimation and flunked COL101. I put the autocollimator in the focuser, and used the primary mirror image instead of the secondary outline, and tried to square the focuser. I was missing one of the two hex wrenches to do so, and we shut down. On Saturday I went DUH and looked at the secondary outline instead, and the center bolt was an eighth of an inch off. Fifteen seconds later, focuser square, 45 seconds later all laser collimation done, back to autocollimator and dead perfect alignment for the entire path; could NOT see a difference between the secondary spider vanes and the autocollimator vanes. After sunset, perfect star check on Polaris so he used it Saturday night, along with the previous Tuesday night.

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Mickey_C
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Reged: 04/27/05

Loc: AZ
Re: Grand Canyon Star Party - Day 7, GREAT Weather new [Re: Skylook123]
      #6609191 - 06/30/14 01:05 PM

View from the north-most parking lot with a Canon 600d DSLR (using the standard 18-55 lens) by my 16 year old daughter Marina.

The sky was just amazing, of course!



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BRCoz
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Reged: 10/21/05

Loc: Moreno Valley, CA
Re: Grand Canyon Star Party - Day 7, GREAT Weather new [Re: Mickey_C]
      #6609911 - 06/30/14 07:45 PM

I had a great time for the three nights I was able to setup my scope. I can't wait until I can be there again. The young girl that was so happy to see the ring nebula in my scope was the best feeling you can get. I showed her how to find it when she gets home using her scope.

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Skylook123
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Loc: Tucson, AZ
Grand Canyon Star Party - Day 8, A GREAT Week Ends new [Re: BRCoz]
      #6616388 - 07/04/14 12:48 PM

Grand Canyon Star Party - DAY EIGHT - A Wonderful Week Ends

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, Mid 80s at sunset, High 60s when I quit near Midnight. Nice and clear, maybe the most pleasant weather of the week.

Seeing and Transparency: Sky is crisp and clear, but some equipment troubles limit a true assessment.

Equipment:
18” f/5 2286mm Teeter Telescope newtonian truss dob, Sky Commander DSCs FINALLY in use
10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount
Mallincam Junior PRO video system on the 10", 19" QFX LCD monitor.

Although I wanted to get some solar observing in, we also had the usual last day pot luck lunch to enjoy, so, in the long run, much better to spend the final day with our volunteer crew in daylight where we can see the voices from the night. Unfortunately for us, Karina needed to leave in the late morning to Las Vegas for a training class for her Tai-Kwan-Do teaching of children with Asberger's Syndrome and who are autistic. Her mom took her to the airport in Albuquerque and headed back to Colorado Springs with grandsons Andrew and Thomas, leaving Stephen behind to finish the last night of GCSP with us.

Marker Marshall, our Interpretive Ranger lead, arranged for us to enjoy Shoshone Point, a gorgeous pavillion on the rim of the Grand Canyon. I've been so busy with the day to day activities I realized, as I rounded the last corner for Shoshone, that it had been two years since I'd really looked at the Grand Canyon. After 12 years, it still takes my breath away every time I am privileged to gaze on the geological handiwork.

We spent a great couple of hours with many of our astronomer friends, some new to GCSP, most old hands at the event, in the presence of one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring locations on our planet. Susan had prepared Kahlua pork in a crock pot in the room, simmering all the previous day leaving behind a tantalizing aroma when I arrived from Friday's night at the site. All the attendees at the final get together had specialties of their own to offer, and George Barber brought along a propane grill for the burger crowd since charcoal and wood fires were not permitted due to the high fire danger.

It was mid-afternoon, and we headed back to get ready for the final evening. I had been nagged by thoughts all the previous night and this day that I had misread the autocollimator from yesterday afternoon, so Stephen and I returned to the site in late afternoon to recheck collimation on the 18", and, sure enough, I had used the primary mirror image instead of the secondary mirror outline to judge the focuser, no focuser adjustment was necessary. All that was needed was a tiny movement of the Protostar secondary mounting shaft, and then laser collimating the path. Magically, the autocollimator vanes appeared perfectly on top of the secondary vane reflection, a textbook view of perfect daylight collimation. With little or no wind, Stephen would have a final chance for show time with the big scope.

We returned to the Canyon Cafe for early dinner, and then back to the site. I layed out the laptop and extra cabling for imaging along with showing the night's targets, and demonstrated the use of the Miloslick software and wired controller to Stephen, with all of the capabilities in parallel with the video monitor for the public viewing.

Tonight would be a special theater presentation. I always schedule Dennis Young as the final speaker, because his demonstration of the use of natural and artificial lighting in combining spectacular night sky images with foreground geological features is one Oh Wow crowd reaction after another. A companion special event has become a tradition over the last few years. Kevin LeGore, founder of an outreach organization called Focus On Astronomy in Los Angeles, also works for Celestron and personally donates First Scopes to the Grand Canyon Association, who turns them over to us for a drawing on the last night. We handed out tickets at the theater door to children from 7 through 13 years of age, and after Dennis' presentation we held the drawing and two young folks were happy recipients of the telescopes.

Back out at the setup, disaster. The Ring should have been on the monitor, but all that was visible in the screen were images as though an octopus had grabbed the screen; multiple shadows of round artifacts all over the view. I restarted the camera, centered on the Ring's position, and nothing detectable. I jacked up the integration time to 40 seconds, and what should have been visible at 5 seconds popped in, sort of. Then Jack Huerkamp next to me, from Mallincam USA, immediately noticed the On Screen Display showed the AGC was set ON instead of MANUAL; when I had been earlier demonstrating Miloslick, I had left the camera in the wrong state. And since I needed to be in the theater earlier than usual for the special drawing and setting up Dennis' show, I had set the camera and telescope ready for the Ring and had inadvertently powered the whole system, not just the monitor and scope tracking, and had taken the lens cover off, so the camera was on, AGC ON, pointing to the east with the sun still setting in the west. That 10" aperture was pulling in a lot of light. Ninety minutes later, the uncooled camera was in a state of inoperability. After Jack got the AGC back to MANUAL, I was able to get a nice looking Ring, but at AGC=6 and 40 seconds integration. Time to run away and do the 10 PM Constellation Tour.

Returning after the tour, I decided to shut everything down and start an early pack-out. Meanwhile, Stephen finally got his night with the 18" until some late gusts popped up. We loaded up the SCT setup and left the 18" for the next morning.

After a week of sleep deprivation, Sunday morning was like slow motion. Stephen and I loaded up the 18" (due to the packing arrangement, we had to unload most of the truck, then repack the whole setup). Mike Weaver, one of the Rangers, got the banner down so we would not be advertising a star party that would not be happening that night, and that finished our packup. We headed out and home, with me in a huge anxiety state over the condition of the camera.

When I got home, I sent an email to Rock Mallin who suggested a factory reset and see if the chip or camera needed a checkout and repair. Tuesday night, Stephen and I unpacked the truck and did a full setup of the 10" and video. I used the reset function, re-established my alignment mask, did a three star alignment with the camera in the system, crossed my fingers, went to The Ring, and with the normal settings it was perfect, as was The Dumbbell. The factory reset and time allowing the AGC circuit to discharge had recovered the camera. In fact, the image was better than at GCSP, for the integration times. No harm done!!

This GCSP was the most stressful during the day for a number of reasons I won't go into, more learning done, but the nights were the best ever. Great Constellation Tours, awesome performance by the MCJR PRO camera on every item I pointed to, scope pointing dead on all week with the permanent setup, tremendous speakers at the night talks, working alongside Jack Huerkamp all week and good guy Wayne Thomas far too few nights, Focus on Astronomy's donation of the First Scopes, but just as important was the support from the Grand Canyon National Park and the professional, enthusiastic contributions from Rangers Marker Marshall, Mike Weaver, Ty Korlovetz, Rader Lane, and the Ranger Aids. And the great volunteer astronomers who made each night a life-altering experience for many thousands of visitors, one visitor at a time. I can still hear George Barber's voice in the dark up the line, several nights after midnight, teaching astronomy to late visitors and park employees, not just showing eye candy.

I love it when I can think back on these events and have a big, silly grin on my face.


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