Sunday, May 20, 2007

Texas Star Party, Friday & Saturday

We had a fun trip to the McDonald Observatory, where--guess what?--it rained, hailed, thundered and lightninged. Here's a look at the dome of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope:

And here is the 107" Harlan J. Smith Telescope:

Looking "down the barrel," you can see where a disgruntled employee took out his frustrations on the big mirror by shooting it several times with a pistol, then giving it a couple of whacks with a sledgehammer. Turns out the big hunk of glass is pretty tough: the spots are simply blacked out, and the telescope lost just a couple percent of its light-gathering ability.

Friday night was the Great Texas Giveaway, and I didn't come away empty handed. I won a small red- and white-light LED flashlight, and a super medium-sized equipment case. Apparently it's considered bad form to win twice, but I'm not proud.

We also managed to squeeze in a few hours of observing Friday night. The clouds parted at sunset, and we had fair conditions until about 1:00 a.m. I sprinted through the regular observing program so I could earn my pin, pausing just long enough to view the Beehive Cluster through the amazing Tele-Vue Ethos. The dew was horrendous; you could hear hair driers going on every few minutes as folks across the field tried to keep things dry.

Saturday morning was bright and only partly cloudy. We got everything packed up, ate lunch, and hit the road for home.

So here's the summary. My TSP 2007 memories:

A great Sunday night. Venus so bright it cast shadows. Watching the Milky Way rise. Pointing the scope at Leo-Virgo and the eyepiece filled with galaxies.

A good Monday morning. Viewing all those things in the Teapot that I can't get at home.

High clouds. Low clouds. Fog. Light rain. Heavy rain. Mist. Hail. Lightning. Yet virtually no mud.

Chasing Ian over every rock he came across.

Meeting Steph, Alvin, Glen and the rest of the CN krew. Such a nice group.

Interrupting my sprint Friday night through the telescope observing list to view the Beehive through the Ethos and my 13mm T6 in Al's 5" refractor. Referring to the Nagler 6-3mm zoom as "butt ugly" within Al's earshot. (Not my greatest moment.)

Touring Carlsbad Caverns and the McDonald Observatory.

Meeting a fellow from Houston who sat in Mission Control at the console next to FIDO on every Apollo flight. Front row seat to history.

Looking at a telescope-mount combination that cost not only more than my car, but my and Trudy's cars together. (12" RCOS on a Paramount ME.)

Lots of old, fat, white guys. A few women. Fewer kids.

Lemonade with every meal.

A lot of Canons, a sprinkling of Nikons, and a few others.

Wanting to return.

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