Saturday, September 22, 2007

Iowa Star Party

First of all that's my telescope. It is a 20cm (8 Inch) LX-90 SCT. It is a f10 instrument with a focal length of 2032mm. I like SCT's because they are good all around performers. They don't excel at anything, but they perform well in all categories and they are very transportable.

The telescope you see here breaks down into three pieces:

  • The tripod
  • The wedge
  • The telescope and its fork mount.
And if necessary, I can carry this telescope in almost any car.

That is Kevin Fox on the left and Jim Holloway on the right. They are members of the Des Moines Astronomical Society (DMAS which is my club.) And they built this telescope themselves. It is a 16 inch F5 Newtonian, they did all of the woodworking and they ground the optics themselves. These are commonly called DOBs, since the basic design came from John Dobson one of the original side walk astronomers. They will sell it for $2600.00, Jim later told me that he is very proud of the optics on this telescope. I have two pictures of them with this scope, one didn't have the black cover fully around the scope. Jim jokingly told me not to use that picture, since they wanted no pornographic telescope pictures published.

Another member of our club, Tammy Mortenson with her 10 inch LX-200 GPS telescope. It is a bigger cousin of my telescope. The Mortenson's bought a party tent from Walmart and set it up without the roof and used it as a wind and light shield.

This is Bob Price from the Chicago area. This is also a 16 inch F5 Dob telescope. Bob ground the optics himself in a telescope making shop and the rest was a kit from Astro Systems. I quietly looked through both 16 inch F5 telescopes at the same object and thought Jim and Kevin's performed better, but my opinion may be less then fair since they are members of my club.

Unfortunately, when I went around to take this gentleman's picture, I didn't get his name. I do know he is also from the Chicago area and he will talk your arm off. His first telescope is a 8 inch F6 Newtonian on a El Novac mount. He said it was refigured around 1990, saying like most commercial mirrors it had only one half the correction it needed. The second telescope is a 6 inch F5.33 (most amateurs would just say F5.) He says he has an eye piece that will give him a full 3 degrees field of view (that is very good.) That night he showed me the North American Nebula through this scope and it was very impressive. I have trouble seeing it through my scope, since I can only get a field of view around 1.25 degrees.

This is Dave Venne from Burnsville, MN and teaches at Augsburg College (Meteorology and Astronomy.) His telescope is a Teleue 102 mm (4 inch) refractor on a goto mount. He admitted to finally giving into the goto.

This is Al Johnson, President of the Ames Area Amateur Astronomy Club. This is a 24 inch DOB with a 100 inch focal length (F4.) Al Johnson and Jim Bonzer (see image below) built this for Ames Area Amateur Astronomy Club. This is the largest telescope on the observing field. I have seen larger ones though, Jim Holloway used to own a 32 inch DOB.

This is Jim Bonzer with his telephoto setup that he uses for astro photography. The lens is a 80mm F8 telephoto lens (Its basically a refractor) and the camera is a Canon 30D digital SLR (Astronomers love this camera.)

This is Ben Sinclair, another member of DMAS and his 12 inch Orion DOB, its a F4.9, which is a fairly fast scope. Little side story here. Ben forgot to see if the telescope would fit in his car when he bought it (It Won't,) so he had to rent a SUV to bring it to the star party.

This is Charles Whitford from Arkansas and a member of the Sugar Creek Astronomy Club with his 12 inch Meade Lightbridge telescope. It is a f5 telescope with a focal length of 1524mm. Charles is a retired band instructor who plays a Native American Flute (He played some Dvorak for me.) The day he arrived was his 85th birthday and the story I heard was that the condominium where he lives was planning on throwing a birthday party for him. But he bolted and came to our little star party instead. I picture a lot of very disappointed little old ladies.

The Iowa Star Party is hosted by Ames Area Amateur Astronomy Club and Whiterock Conservancy. Whiterock Conservancy is an organization to protect the land that used to belong to Garst Farms. In the middle of Whiterock Conservancy is a little Bed & Breakfast (Whiterock Resort ) ran by Liz Garst. The Whiterock Resort provided us with this meal Saturday. The pork was pretty good and the green beans were fine. The Au Gratin potatoes and the cucumbers were excellent. Now before I tell you about the tomatoes, let me explain a little classification system I have for tomatoes:

1.Communist tomatoes, these are the tomatoes served in fast food restaurant. They are usually pink and sometimes even have green in them. These are terrible tomatoes and only the most common of appetites would enjoy these tomatoes.
2.A step up from Communist tomatoes, is Capitalist tomatoes. These are the ones grown in greenhouses and you will often find these tomatoes in sit down type restaurants. The color of these tomatoes is usually red and they taste ok, but are usually not wonderful.
3.Bourgeois tomatoes are usually home grown or at least hand cared for in a garden and not in a green house. These tomatoes are usually the best and taste at their peak around July.

4The tomatoes we were served were not only bourgeois, but the best of the class. Not only that, they had the aroma of tomatoes and any tomato connoisseur would have enjoyed.

And finally, on the day we were breaking camp and everyone else had left. I got a picture of this fawn on the edge of the observing field.