For the first time in many years the Bartlesville Astronomical Society set up a booth at Bartlesville's annual Sunfest. Despite heat that persisted throughout the weekend, we were very successful, talking with hundreds of people and adding 70 new contacts to our newsletter email distribution list.
Thursday evening, during the open setup period, we put up a 10'x10' tent canopy, two folding tables and several chairs. Although we had to take pot luck, our location turned out to be one of the best for our purposes. We were along the path, not far from the bridge, at a spot that gave us a good view of the afternoon and evening Sun. This was important since we wanted to be able to set up a solar scope and display a live image of the Sun on a computer monitor.
On Friday afternoon all the pieces came together. Daryl Doughty brought his big Meade refractor and assembled it on his equatorial mount just to the west of our canopy. Not only did that spot provide a clear view of the Sun, but visitors told us that the big refractor stood out as an obvious attention getter for people walking across the bridge. However, the large scope remained capped throughout Sunfest. It was a smaller finder scope with DSI video camera mounted parallel that provided the live image of the Sun, which was displayed on Daryl's laptop and an external computer monitor sitting on one of the tables. The system provided live images of the Sun and its sunspots all afternoon and evening on Friday. Tracking problems resulting from the difficulty of aligning the portable mount during daytime forced us to use a video replay loop on Saturday and Sunday. Whether live or replay, everyone found the image of the Sun very interesting.
In front of the booth, closer to the path, were more optical instruments for passersby to see. Steve Plank set up his Vixen Maksutov on an alt/az mount, Rick Bryant brought his customized Celestron C5 on an equatorial mount, and both Duane Perkins and Rick setup large, 100mm binoculars on sturdy tripods. The equipment displays worked very well at getting attention and drawing people to our booth. Also near the front of the booth were 24 beautiful astrophotos mounted on a three section poster board prepared by Duane. Equally important, but less obvious hidden under the table, was the large (and very heavy) deep cycle marine battery that Duane Perkins provided to drive both the laptop and monitor throughout each day.
Thanks to the following BAS members, who staffed the booth in three hour shifts throughout the weekend and hauled their equipment in an out each morning and evening.
Based on the success at this year's Sunfest, this is an event we'll definitely want to do again next year.