Sunday, June 21, 2015

Back From The Canyon!

This last week was the 25th Grand Canyon Star Party. Seems like just yesterday that I restarted it (from the 70s and 80s version the San Fransisco Sidewalk Astronomers ran) as the anniversary of my first wife Vicki and my anniversary in 1991. Since then it has been an annual festival of getting the public excited about astronomy from a truly dark sky site, and a meeting of friends far and wide as we reconvene at the south rim of the Canyon. With our travels to the Midwest, our uncertain return, and Melinda's chemo Thursday, my attendance streak was uncertain. But Melinda was doing ok after her treatment and encouraged me to go for a couple nights as she stayed with the cats. Our friend Donna, who usually attends the star party with us, instead came down to keep her company, so the 25 year streak continues!

Well, I safely made it back today. A more thorough review will wait a day or two, but wanted to get a couple pictures out.   I got up there mid-afternoon Friday and there were a huge number of telescopes, so wimped out, and instead of manning a telescope myself, walked around with camera and tripod to take a few shots. Even though the Canyon was full of haze and smoke from a fire east of LA, the sky was pretty good - check out the view from the rim looking towards the star party a couple hundred yards to the south at left. This is a 2-frame mosaic from a pair of 1 minute exposures with the Nikon 16mm fisheye at F/2.8. I liked keeping the footpath in the view of this wide-angle shot of the Summer Milky Way.

Have you ever noticed that when you get back to the campground that the Milky Way looks so much brighter when framed by dark trees? I think it is an optical illusion from the trees blocking out any ambient light, but I was determined to try a few frames when I returned to the campsite at Midnight. This is a single 30 second exposure with the same setup as above, so will let you decide, and regardless if it appears darker, it is an amazing shot...

Of course the goal is to promote astronomy and the dark skies to the public. After resting up Friday I set up the Celestron 14" on Saturday, so got in some public interaction. It was just as I remembered - as soon as you get your first object in the scope, the line forms and doesn't go away for hours. Here at left is a young lady who's jaw was still dropped when gazing at a 160X view of the moon. A little flash was used for fill, and in the upper right corner, the moon, Venus and Jupiter between and above are visible.

The night before when I was roaming with the camera, I ran into my friend Jim Palmer and his wife Vicki from Phoenix. Jim was evidently proficient in using visitor's cell phones to capture the view of the moon thru his scope and was kept busy to record the scene. Interestingly, some were content with the phone recording and didn't look thru the eyepiece! Note the arrangements of the moon and planets to the view 24 hours later above. The moon is substantially below Venus in this shot.

I've got huge amounts of pics to go through, including some IR and stereo views, so give me a couple days to rest up and catch up! There will definitely be more!

No comments: