Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Weekend of Randomness!

Note piggy-back 500mm lens!
Newlyweds Michael and Casey!
A few weeks ago was the 2017 edition of the Grand Canyon Star Party. I attended the first few days - I feel responsible since I'd started the thing way back in 1991, so had to keep an eye on "my baby"! I was in a nostalgic mood with this being the first one held after Melinda's death last Fall, and it seemed more than ever were asking me about the origins of the event - started at the honeymoon w/my first wife Vicki at the rim. So I was enveloped in a melancholy mood as the event started...

But the crowd wore on me - the tourists that stop and look thru our telescopes are always so enthusiastic that sadness was not long accepted. On the second night I had mounted my camera piggy-back on the scope so I could take and show a photo of what folks were looking at. Early in the evening I met Casey and Michael - they had just been married canyon-side the day before and were now honeymooning here! Someone down the line of telescopes had told them to come look me up and say hi. Well their story similar to mine certainly cheered me up and I asked them to come back when I didn't have 30 people in line looking at Jupiter, which they said they would.

Grand Canyon view of C/2015 V2 Johnson
Casey and Michael Johnson wedding photo!
My crowds eventually thinned and I'd all-but forgotten them. Left alone, it took me a while to find the "bright" comet Johnson in the evening sky. While bright enough to barely be seen in binoculars, it took a while to get it into the telescope, but the camera quickly confirmed its green coma and short tail that it was indeed Comet Johnson C/2015 V2. I've already told the story of how it was discovered as part of the Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson by Jess Johnson in 2015, thus the name after the discoverer. About this time Casey and Michael appeared and they got to see the comet thru the eyepiece and in the back of the camera. I then offered to take them a few stacked exposures of the Triffid and Lagoon Nebulae as a wedding present, and showed them the pretty blue and red nebula in a short exposure. As the camera recorded the half dozen frames, I took their email contact from them. I was amazed that Casey and Michael's married name is Johnson - so had to go back and tell them the story of the Comet Johnson that they had just seen! And strangely enough too, many of you may know that Melinda's maiden name was Johnson! It was a set of circumstances way to weird to be random, and quickly had me tearing up...

Another of Casey and Michael's wedding shots!
My little wedding offering to them...
The other big event this summer is the solar eclipse coming up in August. I'm always loathe to make plans days or weeks in advance, let alone years or months. But in my talking to the folks in line looking through the Celestron at the Canyon, I met a family from Wyoming. When asked where they would be on the 21st of August, w/out hesitation they said "Watching the eclipse from our yard!" Of course, my immediate response was if they would mind if I brought up a dozen people to camp in their yard, with access to a shower and bathroom? They said yes! So now I have a destination for my group of Russian amateur astronomers and the group of friends that want to follow along. Our new friends in small-town Wyoming have even offered to cook for us, so it sounds like an adventure that will soon-enough appear here.

So randomness and circumstance are still at work in the universe! It has been said (perhaps by me!?) that if you sit along the rim of the Grand Canyon long enough, you will meet everyone in the world! It certainly worked wonders for me, raising me out of my funky mood, and also finding a home for the 21st of August! May the universe continue to be surprising!

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