Rock Mountain Star Stare, June 17-20, 2009

Gardner is near the south end of the state, just about straight west, and a tad north, of Walsenburg.  The site is almost pure sand/dust and high winds are also a common occurrence, so plan accordingly.  There is a main observing field of about 10 acres, the remaining 25 acres are wooded with smaller openings.  Many folks camped out in the woods and found enough sky to play with their scopes.

Wednesday - We arrived shortly after noon.  It was clear, hot, dusty, and fairly windy.  Sky was mostly clear at sunset, with all 7 Little Dipper stars easily visible.  Spent a couple hours in visual pursuits.

Thursday - Clear and hot.  Very windy - several scopes bit the dust, tents were flattened.  Night skies were about 50% clear with a lot of coming and going, anything east of the Milky Way stayed hidden.  Ran a 2-hour image of M-51 with the 60.  Worked several objects in the Big Dipper and Scorpio with the 18.

Friday - Clear and hot, with a break from the wind.  90% clouded over at sunset, 100% by 2300.  Rain started at 2330, continuing into Sat.

Saturday - Cool and light rain all day, no wind.  Mostly clear at sunset and developed into a great night.   Some minor haze came and went periodically.  Ran a 2-hour image of M-86 and friends in Markarian's Chain.  Fairly turbulent so didn't get great detail, but it came out OK for the conditions.  Worked most of Sagittarius visually with the 18.  Also took a gander at Saturn - not very impressive with the rings edge on to us right now, and Jupiter - looked great, but to turbulent to image. 

Vendors

Televue - A factory rep was on hand and had almost everything TV builds.  A long chat ensued and almost cost me some $$$$$.  He offered to let me try a 8mm Ethos on my 18, but I chickened out. 

S&S Optika - Kathy had a selection of eyepieces, and some other goodies.

JMI - Jim Burr brought out a 16" binocular.  It was the original prototype and only has 12.5" mirrors in it.  I walked down Saturday night and spent some time with it.  It takes a bit of practice to adjust the intraocular distance and then focus each eye, but Wow!  Things look 3-D and jump right out at you.  I may have to find a way... 
I also picked his mind about some upgrades to my NGT-18. 

Starhopper Publishing - Jim Holder publishes very interesting and handy observing lists/guides.  He doesn't have  web site, but his email is oldstarhopper@yahoo.com.

Organization was very good, schedules printed on name tags and mostly adhered too (wind caused some changes), porta potties were cleaned and very usable.  Several meals were catered and the Boy Scouts put on a pancake breakfast.

Programs ranged from Astro 101, through a 3-D aurora photo show.  Several kids programs were also presented.

As in the last couple years the weather was not conducive to uncovering equipment early, so I didn't get any pictures of gear.

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