Fox Park Star Party 2009, Aug. 18 -23

                          This is the scene of the North Park at Fox. The 1st image is looking due North.  2nd is                                                                  Total attendees were ~200, with 1300" of aperture, a record for 15 years (or so).
                         looking NorthEast. 3rd is in the middle looking SouthEast and the 4th is the west end                                                                                                                          Taken by Marty C.
                         looking NorthEast.  I didn't get pictures of the south Park.

                                                Some great comments from attendees:

From Our gracious host, Marty Curran:
  Thanks to all for making another successful WUTS for 2009. We did get some last minute registrations that took our total count
over 200 for attendance. We had some great skyís and some great speakers as well as a really great crowd (as usual).  For the early
attendees, on Wednesday morning at 2:30am, we got probably the best sky I have ever seen at Foxpark. I threw every eyepiece I had
at it and I still kept getting pinpoint stars. I ripped apart a few ARP galaxy clusters and generally had a great time. The rest of the
weekend for me was pretty decent and by Saturday night, was ready to pass out which I promptly did nice and early.

Sorry you couldnít be there Gary Ö We really missed hearing that laugh from the back field. I know we will see you soon.

Marcy and I havenít announced the 2010 dates yet but we will start looking soon and get something out. Thanks again.

                                             **************************************************
From Robert Grover: M20
"Yes, the astrophotography bug has hit me pretty hard.  For a bit of background, I have had a long term interest in looking at the night
sky but never really was interested enough to buy a telescope.  I was one of those kids ruined by a  cheap department store scope in
the late 1960s.

However, my cousin got interested in astronomy about 20 years ago.  He started talking about his fun times at the Texas Star Party
and the beginnings of an astro imaging project involving Arp Galaxies.  His efforts were rewarded when he became co-author of a
book titled "The Arp Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies A Chronicle & Observer's Guide" (Willmann-Bell).  He kindly sent me a signed,
personalized copy & that rekindled the flame for me to see what all was out there to see and maybe image.

So, I bought an inexpensive Bushnell 10x50 binocular in the spring of 2008 and spent many nights lying in my front yard (under
heavily light polluted Ft. Collins skies) looking for 'stuff'.  To help me locate things, I had an old Edmund Scientific Planisphere
dated from 1973.  Found most of the Messier objects shown on that planisphere (maybe 10 or so) and spent many hours online,
ogling telescopes.

Knowing I wanted to do visual observation and with thoughts of maybe, eventually getting into astrophotography, and with a particular
interest in deep space objects, I finally decided on the Celestron C8N-GT (8 inch Newt on a go-to GEM).  I ordered it in September
of 2008.  So far, I have not been disappointed.  Learning collimation wasn't nearly as bad as I'd been led to believe it might be.
I upgraded the sloppy OEM R&P focuser with a motorized JMI EV2-N Crayford unit to make imaging easier.  The combination of
decent aperture for visual and the 1000mm focal length and f5 focal ratio seemed like a great beginner's all around scope.
I'd recommend it to anyone looking at trying out both  visual & imaging astronomy, even though the eyepiece can get into some
'interesting' positions for visual observing.
 

Thanks to all the kind folks in several Yahoo astronomy & imaging groups & more talented, informative people in the "Telescope Junkies"
forum, I have officially begun my travels "to the Dark Side".  I'm enjoying figuring out flexure issues, autoguide settings, mount foibles,
drift alignment and a myriad of other issues to overcome.  Next on the learning ladder is taking flat frames.
 

Figured it had been a while since I joined and sent out my astro-bio that I'd update it a bit and re-introduce myself - especially now that
I should have things to offer on occasion."

                                                                                ********************************************
From Andrew Planck:

Hello all,
   I had a wonderfully serendipitous thing happen at WUTS this year. In addition to having some fantastic viewing all three nights,
on Saturday morning a young fellow dropped by my site (he had just arrived) and started speaking to me. He definitely seemed a newbie,
and was asking me about my telescopes and what the WUTS weekend was all about. He spoke with an instantly identifiable French accent,
and since I am a French teacher I sprang into action--shifted the conversation into French, and we became instant best friends.

   Antoine had had no experience with astronomy and had never even looked through a telescope. He lives in France but was in Denver
on business. He got an adventurous bee in his bonnet and wondered if anything was happening in the astro world while he was here.
Three clicks of the computer brought him to WUTS. He googled "astronomy Denver" which got him to a calendar of astro events
which got him to WUTS. He thought it looked interesting so he rented a car and and drove up without a clue about what he was getting into.
He was also totally unprepared. He had no sleeping bag and bought a thin blanket from the Salvation Army for $1.00. He was planning to
sleep sitting up in his car. He had no idea how cold it could get at Fox Park and I told him, "Mon ami, tu vas mourir"--my friend, you're gonna die!
I fortunately had an extra sleeping bag and told him he could sleep "upstairs" in my Eurovan camper. (I had to insist because he was being polite.
I probably saved his life!)

   In Antoine I saw a delicious and irresistable opportunity to "Pay it Forward." When my wife and I lived in France several years ago we
were treated with extraordinary kindness and generosity by everyone we met, but especially by two of our neighbors. One neighbor
rented a TV for us for the year ("so that we could improve our French") and the couple that owned the fish market down the street actually
gave us their extra car to use for the year. So I abandoned all of my personal viewing plans for the evening and I devoted all of my attention
to giving Antoine the best possible tour of the universe that I was capable of. It was just him and me for the whole night, and we hopped
from one astonishing sight to the next. He was so blown away by what he saw that he could hardly see straight, and just flat out ran out of
superlatives! I mean, imagine you've never seen through a telescope and all of a sudden you find yourself under very dark skies with a
14 1/2" dobsonian entirely at your disposal, and one after the other you're introduced to M31, M13, Albireo, the Wild Duck, the Dumbbell,
M57, the Whirlpool, the Double-Double, the Blinking Planetary, the Swan, the Lagoon, the Veil,  the Double Cluster, the Pleiades, Jupiter, etc., etc!
He was also an incredibly gifted student and blew me away when he was able to take my green laser and point to, and name, most of the things
we had seen (with correct Messier numbers)!

It was, I believe, a memorable evening for both of us and I had the gratification of being able to repay France for at least a small portion of
a long-standing debt.

Amazing Addendem:    Hi Andrew,
                                    Terrific story!  Didn't he also win one of the door prizes?
                                    Thanks
                                    Bill P.

Yes, Bill. I forgot to mention that, to complete the experience, Antoine won one of the better door prizes--
a high quality 2" diagonal. He said that he is now inspired to go out and buy an 8" SCT to fit around it!

-Andrew
                                                                    *********************************************


                 From David Dunn (Dark Sky Marine):              WUTS Hooch v2009 - Unitron Model 155C, 4" f15
Weekend Under the Stars 2009:
After not arriving until late Fri. the last few years it was nice to pull into the field Thursday early afternoon and have my choice of spots
to set up. I ended up at the edge of the young group of trees in the back field's NW corner giving me a good view all around. With plenty
of time to get set up before dark I visited friends and heard reports of the previous nights observing conditions. By sunset the field had
filled up and I was ready for it to get dark, I like to sit back in a chair and watch the stars and Milky Way come into view as twlight fades,
though I did take a look at Jupiter during that brief period of good seeing that happens shortly after sunset.
 
 

The last two years my equipment has consisted of a 4" refractor and a pair of binoculars that under Fox Park's dark skies perform quite
well. Chasing down Messier's using a telrad and memory provided plenty of fun then jump over to Jupiter and destroy my night vision
before walking the field. In typical Fox Park form after midnight my objective frosted up (with my dew heater still packed away) I put
my scope up and walked around to see who else was still observing. Dan L. had his 25" set up and we spent the next several hours looking
at objects that a 4" scope can't reach. One of my favorite views is always the Veil Nebula and it was spectacular this night. I always like
to try a challenge objects during WUTS and I convinced Dan to swing over to IC10 in CAS, the transparency must have been very good
as it was the best view I've had of this elusive galaxy with bright HII regions hidden behind the Milky Way.

The next morning had me up early hoping to photograph some Moose without luck. Friday evening I was ready with my dew heater installed
and a list of double stars to view. Mixing those in with objects I didn't see the previous night kept me busy till I ran out of gas around 1:00 am.
Saturdays forecast was less promising than the previous nights so I packed up and headed down to the Kawuneeche valley in RMNP hoping
to get in some wildlife photography.

After the cloudy, rainy year it's been 2 clear nights in Fox Park make up for a lot. I think I'm good for at least a month.

                                                              ************************************************

From Dan Lazslo (NCAS editor):
A huge thanks to the CAS and LASSO crews for seeing to our basic creature comforts and observing needs.  What a pleasure to have the
company of dozens of observers, superb dark skies, and freedom from bonfires.  We are so in your debt for reserving this accessible site.

Aug 20-21 was great for collecting globular clusters, M 10, M 12, M 13, M 15, M 22.  Good views were had of M 8 and M 20, M11,
M 16, M 17,  M 51, M 101, the NGC 7331 region, and NGC 891.  Really tough to quit staring at the Crescent Neb NGC 6888, the Veil
and M 27.  A little paranoia re dark adaptation kept me from checking out Jupiter when the seeing was best.  The predawn skies were good
for Southern specialties NGC 253 and NGC 246.  Good to catch up with Dark Sky Marines Brian Simpson, Tom Teters and Dave Dunn.
Apologies to the other voices in the dark I've spaced.

The Friday Sun sprouted some low shrubbery in H-alpha views.  The sunspot drought continues.  It was good to see more of the NCAS
crew arrive for the best night for dark skies: Greg Halac, Jon Caldwell, Dave and Deanna Chamness, Nate Perkins.  The local array of
scopes then ran from 7" to 25" including sculptural ATM projects: Nate's 16 ultralight Dob and Jon's homeground 12 inch mirror in a
horseshoe eq mount recalling the Mt Palomar icon.  Best views of Jupiter early were in Greg's 17.5 Telekit.  The dark and starry night
featured the dusty Milky Way arching over the evening observers.  Dark nebulae ran from the Pipe Neb in Ophiuchus to mottling in the
Perseus-Auriga region, sign of a really dark night.  These popped in binoculars.  The Sky Quality meter maxed at 21.69 pointed NW,
with some Milky Way interference.  Dave narrowed down Pluto to a little 14th mag triangle, and it declared itself by shift next night.
Early evening was binary hour, for Eta Cas, Iota Cas, Cor Caroli, Mizar, Epsilon Boo, Albireo.  A galaxy and galaxy cluster run was next
with Seyfert's Sextet showing 4, M 51 with bridge, M101, NGC 7331 and Stephen's Quintet, M 33.  Later the NGC 704 group.  Ladder
climbers were rewarded with brilliant M13 and dim attendant galaxies, M27 great even unfiltered and NGC 6888.  The Veil was a balancing
act to sweep the length.  Paul Robinson tracked down Comet Christensen by Sagitta and later the very diffuse 22/P Comet Kopff.
  Paul alerted us to the 21:22 Iridium flare and 22:00 Jovian sat eclipse.  Seeing looked decent so we ran up the power to 450x on M57 for a
pretty comfortable view of its central star.  Mike Prochoda, Max and Ray Moe stopped in and Max pointed out the hotspots in NGC 246.
Other PN were NGC 6210, NGC 6826, a mottled NGC 6781,  NGC 7662, a field-filling NG C 7293,  and 7009 with its dim ansae.
  Max pointed out, the FLIERS emit H-alpha and don't get help from an OIII filter.  Other PN looking good later were NGC 7008,  NGC 1514
and NGC 1535.  We cranked up the power on NGC 253 and NGC 891, and M 2.  Mike P and I were able to faintly trace the zodiacal band
from the East's zodiacal light to the Jupiter region, where it was overwhelmed.  A low power sweep caught M 38, the Alpha Per region and
NGC 457.  M 42 made a wavy appearance at the treetops.

  Saturday showed little change in quiescent prominences on the Sun.  Dan Rey stopped by for a chat about his refractor projects and Max
filled us in on his summer at Virginia and AGN.  Bill Possell gave impressive specs on the scope of the Kepler mission and Chip K fleshed
out the WIRO story.  Sat. night started with the cloud waiting game, then a race to spot one of every type before we got socked in.  We got
a few binaries, then the Double Cluster, Veil, M 11, M22, M57, B86, Jupiter which later had a GRS transit.  Max suggested the very dim
Abell 39, barely there in the OIII filter.  Dave Chamness logged Pluto.  NGC 6543 had its central star apparent.  Clouds extended from the
West to shut us down around midnight, leaving only Jupiter and the brighter stars.

Thanks to all for the enlightening weekend, and hope to see a few at Mills Canyon, NM in the coming months.

Cheers,
Dan Laszlo
NCAS Ft Collins                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sep. 11, 2009  TjT