Rocky Mountain Star Stare 2002

- was a gas as usual.

The transparency was excellent and the night time temperatures very mild.
The daytimes were dominated by hot, dry wind and sun.

The area was eerily dry this year. This is normally the greenest time of year up there, but there was no green grass. There were no flowers. There was obviously no rain this spring. The hummingbirds were hungry! They were continually flying inside my hooch and trying to eat the tail lights of my truck - buzzing around like giant flies. Poor little buggers. I wish I had a feeder with me.

Thursday night we had T-shirt weather until about 10:30 p.m.

Friday night was a little cooler but still no parka was needed and I even had to take my jacket off for awhile to cool down before a chilly breeze came along about 12:30 a.m..

Saturday featured kid's activities and workshops and talks for adults. Pictured below is a solar filter making workshop.

Scattered around the field were several interesting projects to see. One of these projects was a set of four dome tents fitted with plastic objects on the walls to represent stars and constellations for teaching astronomy to the blind. Each tent represented each of the four seasons. The large sundial was another interesting item.

The ATM Walkabout featured several interesting projects displayed by the attending amateur telescope makers. Pictured below are a couple of my unofficial picks for unofficial awards.

The HotRod Award goes to this pretty red 6 inch F/8 refractor that was made by one of the Denver Astronomical Society's folks. Pictured next to it is a 6 inch reflector that featured some very nice woodwork.

The Blood, Sweat, and Tears Award has to go to this very nice 18 inch reflector built by a guy with the true spirit of the ATM'er. The mirror was gound by hand! No small task. His wife obviously deserves an award for patience and understanding too!

The Built on the Fly Award goes to this 4.25 inch f/4 reflector completely made from Leggos snap-together building blocks and features a focuser made from Leggos wheels and sports a genuine Telrad finder. Yes, the scope really works - I looked through it.

A change of Plans

After the hot, dry walkabout, I had just settled into the shade with my shoes off and a cold drink when I noticed billows of smoke that appeared to be just over the little rise next to my hooch. The whole area was a tenderbox this year and to see a nearby fire was not unexpected. I immediately ran to the top of the rise and was pleasantly surprised to see that the burning area was about 4 miles away. Because of the thickness of the smoke and speed of motion, it had appeared much closer.

Needless to say, Saturday night's star party was canceled due to the forest fire and a very stiff hot wind - a dangerous combination. I was just glad it wasn't closer and that the wind kept it moving perpendicular to its direction from us. The doorprize giveaway was punctuated by slurry bombers flying directly over us which elicited cheers from the crowd.

Before and after the doorprize meeting we got some great views (and pictures) of the slurry bombers doing their thing.

But within the space of an hour or so there was an evacuation suggestion by the bureau of land management that was readily complied with by most if not all. I've never seen the place clear out so quickly! After sundown the few of us that remained could see the beautiful (in a sinister sort of way) orange glow of the illuminated smoke, sort of like a miniature sunrise. Flames could be occaisionally seen bursting into the air above the hilltops about 2 miles away. I wish I had taken a better picture. This photo is scanned from an under-exposed slide. The original reveals trees and hillsides silhouetted by the beautiful colors.

Over the course of two hours it had traversed about 20 degrees of azimuth. Sitting in that monster's path would be a bad place to be if the wind suddenly changed directions. We skedaddled shortly after this picture was taken.

In spite of the shortened visit, the CSAS did another great job in putting on a fun, informative, and relaxing star party again this year - the sixteenth, with many nice touches added for the attendees, like lapel pins and T-shirts WITH POCKETS!!!

Thanks guys and gals of CSAS. We all very much appreciate this valuable service you faithfully do for the local amateur astronomy community year after year. Keep it up! Fun time!

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