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August 2009 Star Party Notes

August BAS Star Party Notes

Saturday night, August 22, the Bartlesville Astronomical Society met at Mike Woods' place for a star party.  We were treated to clear skies, comfortable temperatures and almost no bugs.  The only inconvenience was heavy dew that appeared during twilight and saturated the grass for the duration of the party.  But that wasn't a problem since we were looking up, not down.  And once the skies darkened completely, looking up revealed a stunning view of the Milky Way spanning from the southern horizon northward, almost bisecting the sky.  Besides stars, planets, nebulae, clusters and galaxies, we also spotted a few satellites and shooting stars.

Rick Bryant - Deep Sky Astrophotography
As most BAS members know, Rick is a serious astrophotographer.  He had his homegrown astrophotography system, with Celestron C5, rifle scope finder and a Canon DSLR camera on an equatorial mount, automatically capturing a sequence of photos of the Milky Way in the constellation Scutum and north into Aquila.  The equatorial mount was controlled by a laptop and homemade motor controller, while the camera was dutifully capturing 90 second images under the preprogrammed direction of a handheld DSLR controller.  The raw photos appearing on Rick's view screen were exceptional.  But that's only half the story.  A lot of time will go into processing these photos to remove artifacts and bring out subtle features.  We should all encourage Rick to post some of the final results on the BAS Yahoo Group when he's done.

Mike Woods - Never Stoop to an Eyepiece Again
Mike mounts his C8 on an industrial strength K&E research laboratory pedestal.  It's massive and rock solid, providing a very stable base for the telescope.  What's more, the pedestal has a hand crank to raise and lower the mount head precisely, without drift or rotation.  This means the scope can be cranked down to a lower position for viewing objects near the horizon, but cranked to a higher extension for objects overhead.  Mike appeared delighted to discover that, even when Messier 13 is nearly overhead, he can crank the scope up until he's looking right up into the eyepiece.  No more back aches for him from hunching to a low, awkward eyepiece position. 

Don Fudge - Sagittarius Sights
Don explored many of the best objects in Sagittarius with  his 8" Orion short tube Newtonian and several excellent eyepieces.    He gave a nice tour of the sky to Cory Cohen, a visitor at the star party, and prospective BAS member.  We all got a chance to see star clusters with pinpoint focus and nebulae showing not only the usual bright portions, but plenty of faint, delicate features.  The Lagoon Nebula was a particular favorite, demonstrating the true capability of Don's scope.

Joe Eder - Things are Looking Down
Joe was the only one at the star party who spent most of his time looking down toward the ground.  Not only that,  he was using a pair of binoculars.  No, he didn't lose a favorite eyepiece or critical finder scope set screw in the thick, wet grass.  Joe has constructed a unique viewing device so that he can see the sky by gazing toward the ground.  His binoculars,  mounted on a bracket, point downward to a flat, front surface mirror that can be tipped from a nearly horizontal position to a nearly vertical position.  With this arrangement, Joe can sit in a chair, back relaxed, looking comfortably downward, while the view of the sky is reflected by the mirror, through the binoculars, and into his eyes.  Pivoting the mirror scans the view across the sky.  Those who weren't at the star party will want to make it to the next one to see how Joe interprets the phrase "armchair astronomer".

John Grismore - What Night Vision?
I spent the first half of the star party seated in front of a laptop screen, waiting to press record on my camcorder.  I had set up my scope with a sensitive monochrome surveillance video camera in place of the eyepiece to record the eclipse of one of Jupiter's moons (Ganymede), by another (Io).  Even at it's dimmest setting, the laptop screen glow doesn't do good things for night vision, so when everyone else was exclaiming about the stunning appearance of the Milky Way, I was left in the dark (well, in the light, actually).  I did manage to record the eclipse, but not without kicking the scope accidentally.  After completing the recording, I put the video camera away, returned to eyepieces, and viewed a number of Messier objects.  The sky was clear and steady, and I saw the best view of the Dumbbell Nebula that I've seen through a telescope.

BAS Websites
BAS 2006 Forum Page:

The BAS Yahoo Group is our preferred method of communication, since it is a private site with categories for messages, photos, files and calendar.  All members are encouraged to join, so that we can maintain more frequent communication about our astronomical activities and interests.
• The Files section currently contains a few files about passive dew shield construction, SCT optics cleaning, and seeing and transparency scales.  There's plenty of room for lots more information and data here.
• The Photos section currently contains a snapshot of a BAS event several years ago, some exceptional astrophotos by Daniel Parrot and a few astrovideo images.  Again, there's plenty of room for much more here.  Anyone who has astrophotos is encouraged to upload them.
• The Links section includes a few links to astronomical sites,
• and there's a Messier Cross Reference Table in the Database section.

Next Month
Hmm.  No plans yet.  Since we had our star party fairly late in August do we want to delay the September meeting until later in the month?  Email me your ideas at