I can't give you much information about what went on in the rest of the field, here's what went on in the ASTRA section or shall I say, the "Party Zone". Do to a problem at work (naturally), I arrived later than the rest of my family, about 9:00 PM. I parked in the separate lot, you not allowed to drive onto the field after dark. The sky was full of streaky clouds but there were clear patches. I said my Hellos and started setting up the scope. It was a smaller crowd than last year, I'd say 75 to 100 people and maybe 30 to 40 scopes set up. The largest scope I saw was an 18" Obsession, the smallest was a kid with a plastic retractable toy. The most impressive was a 106MM Takahashi on a Takahashi mount and tripod hooked to a high end CCD camera and lap top computer. I'd say close to $20,000 worth of equipment. The guy said the Tube was basically just an accessory for the rest if the equipment. I saw Saturn in that scope Saturday night, very impressive! I didn't get around to see too many other scopes, I spent most of the night in the Party Zone with my scope, family, friends and visitors from all over the field. It was a
great event. Good food, good conversation and tons of fun under a less than pristine sky.
Friday night we had passing clouds till about 11:30 when they stopped
passing and stayed for the night. 4:00 in the morning it cleared and many of us early risers were treated to spectacular views of Saturn, Jupiter and wonderful Earth shine on the Moon in Phils 5" Astro Physics Refractor. Saturday was clear early, than a slight haze moved in which killed the sparkle we were getting in the eyepiece but it was still a good sky. Many people shut down early Saturday but everyone in the Party Zone would have no part of it and were up till way after midnight. I had a crowd of 6 to 10 people around my telescope most of the time. We went from item to item with most people very impressed with the view through a larger aperture telescope than they own. Many were amazed with the GOTO feature they had never see in action before. That's one of the great things about these events, you see stuff you never saw before, both in the eyepiece and standing on the ground. Among the most popular items were the Dragon Fly cluster NGC457, the Gator cluster NGC7160, any Messier Globular cluster, doubles Alberio, Gamma Andromeda and Epsilon Lyre. I had requests for everything from M31 to NGC891. I explained what a Planetary Nebula was at least half a dozen times. We looked at several of those including, M57 the Ring, M27 the Dumbbell, NGC7009 the Saturn, NGC 6826 the Blinking (quite popular), NGC7662 the Blue Snowball (also popular), NGC 6905 unnamed as yet, NGC2022 and a few others. Of course Galaxies included M31, M32, M110, NGC7331, NGC1023, NGC185, ngc278, NGC891 just to name a few. When Auriga was high enough we saw open cluster M36, M37, M38 and M35 in Gemini. Other open cluster included M102 and M52 in Cass and M11 outstanding as always. I didn't take any notes of which items we were looking at. We were going from target to target, getting in as many as we could for all to see. I stuck with items logged on my favorites book. These are items I know will be visible and please anyone who looks in the eyepiece. I didn't go after any new targets
either. It wasn't the type of sky for deep sky hunting of faint fuzzies. It's a crowd pleasing type of night and I was very happy to try to please. We did a little comparison from time to time. There was Charlie with a 4.7" f/9 Astro Physics Refractor. We tried a Neagler 9MM compared to a Teleview 8MM radiant on the Dumbbell to see which was better. A crowd of 5 girls from 9 to 12 yrs old were the final judges. The Neagler won 3 to 2. The 4.7 " Astro Physics needed to go above 200x to split Epsilon Lyre cleanly while it was very clear split in the 12" LX200 at only 138x. This sort of stuff went on often both nights. "Take a look at this, let me see it in yours, change the eyepiece, can I try that in mine'. Everyone was very happy to share and experiment. And speaking of sharing, Mauro was sharing Hot Dogs and Hamburgers for all, Betty and I had coffee, breakfast cereal and soup available anytime and we went through over a case of bottled water, Gene had buns, donuts, sausage and I can't remember who had what else but there was plenty to eat and drink. It got very hot Saturday afternoon. Some of us took a ride to the Cape May Zoo. Had a good time there.
We met a few new people there and made a few new friends. Ro showed up with a genuine Jerry Garcia look alike that turned out to be her husband Pardo. Was glad to meet him. I know her for about 1 1/2 years first time I met Pardo. Sure wish he'd have broken into a few verses of Truck'in or Bertha for us! I met Don who also posted a review of the SJSP on the ASTRA message board. There was a young couple who drove down from Baltimore. They arrived late Saturday, didn't set up there scope but were very excited to get a look through ours. They were also happy to get help and set up their tent in the Party Zone. Saturday afternoon Gene took them under his tutorial wing and told them every thing they needed to know about their Meade 4 1/2" GOTO Newtonian and twice as much as they didn't really need to know. They hung with us the whole weekend. I had a surprise meeting with a guy named Dave. I posted on the Astronomy Magazine web sight discussion boards that I would be at the SJSP. If anyone was going,
look for my scope and say Hi. Well this guy Dave who I post comments with often showed up and we met for the first time face to face. I was a little leery of him at first, I thought your not supped to do that, arrange meetings with people from the web. But then I remembered, that's for kids and porn sights, not Astronomy clubs. So that was great, a highlight of the weekend for me. He gave me all kinds of paper work to read through and a big Moon map. I gave him soup.
I was happy to see lots of kids there of all ages. They all seem to hit it off well. There was football, TV's, Gameboys and of course those wonderful glow-in-the-dark red thing being tossed into the sky at night. I'm sure Phil will have a picture for us, maybe a nice 30 minute exposure with several passing though the image. Mauro started a barbecue in the dark, that went over real big. Many of the women refused to use the port-o-potties and made several trips to the parking lot rest rooms. Gene and I complained about pains in our feet and legs from the walk at the zoo and standing all night. Charlie from STAR through his back out loading his car. There was a raffle with prizes. Food, shirts and stuff for sale. I can go on and on. Had a great time. Thanks to the South Jersey Astronomy Club for hosting this event. See you all next year.