... lord have mercy on our souls...
Apologies to Dolly Parton and Carol Hall (and yes I could not get "that" song out of my head on the 1,600 mile drive!)
While I still maintain that the Winter Star Party in the Keys is my favorite Star Party of all, I must confess that the Texas Star Party is growing mightily on me. Minus the tropical locale and great seafood, the Texas Star Party boasts far superior skies (albeit also minus the really deep southern targets), nearly as great a crowd of vendor and imaging friends, and a really large group of dedicated amateur astronomers. I've often noted at other star parties, to my surprise, come midnight or so many, if not most of the crowd, has gone to bed. In Texas, I can be walking back to my car at dawn and there are dozens...dozens, of people covering their scopes up for the day. Texas attracts a hardy crowd, and this year that crowd was in excess of 500+ souls. This photo shows the north field alone, which was packed with imagers and big dobsonian telescopes.
The north end of the north field is also the "Vendor Demo" area, where I setup with good vendor friends from Celestron (Lonnie Wege and Robert Reeves), Sky-Watcher USA (Kevin LeGore and Jeff Simon), Astrofactors (Bruce Morell), and Starlight Xpress (Michael Hattey). There was plenty of imaging, and visual observing all week whenever the weather would allow, and it was clear most nights. I also spent some time visiting some of our customers on the field, a few new guys I walked through some procedures, and a couple of rough spots I had to help work through. This was my third Texas Star Party (I was also a speaker this year - "Adventures of an Accidental Astronomer"), and the number of Paramounts on the field I think has doubled each year, mostly Paramount MYT's as they are of course the most portable of our line up!
Often they were clustered together like in this photo from friend Jon Talbot, but also a good peppering of them here and there on all three of the major fields.
I brought along my MYT and a small refractor (Esprit 100) and exercised and demonstrated the fledgling LTI interface for TheSkyX using my iPad the whole week. I also gave @Focus3 and LTI "lessons" to my vendor friends who were imaging, and both are a certified hit; especially the ability to image more than one target in an evening with integrated focus runs and a meridian flip... all without any additional automation software needed. Oh, of course none of us were guiding... there were three Paramounts running in the demo area, and a Rowe Ackerman on a Celestron mount kicking out fantastic 20 second exposures with a Starlight Xpress camera.
My best shot of the star party (because that's what we do, right?) was a wide field showing the Lagoon and Triffid lost among a sea of stars. I used a 200mm camera lens and a QHY 128c one shot color camera. Wait, QHY doesn't work with TheSkyX very well!?!? Yes, but that should change soon ;-)
So what's next? RJ and I are going to the Grand Canyon Star Party next month. Tens of thousands of people are expected and it's open to the public. We will both be there with two mounts/systems showing stuff off, including some new "features" in development that might be fun to watch... live... muhahahah...
05-17-2018 7:22 AM