I had a lot of fun at this year's Black Forest Star Party, but boy was I tired by the end of the weekend. I woke up at 3:30 AM Saturday morning and drove the 435 miles in about 9 hours. Cherry Springs is known for its dark skies (it's black all the way to the horizon) but the problem with these dark locations is that they're notoriously difficult to get to. By the time I got there, I had just enough time to check in with the BFSP staff, drive the 14 miles down to the hotel, check in and throw my bags in the room, and get back in time to give my talk. The audience, by the way, was great - there's nothing that makes a speaker's life easy like a good crowd. Thanks to y'all.
Telescopes From The Black Forest Star Party Sept 15, 2007Updated 9/20/07
I Couldn't Have Asked For A Better CrowdI saw lots of interesting scopes in the field. One of the largest, and most popular, was Meade's new 20" RC ($49,999). There are only a few of these in the country right now. It's beautifully made, with a carbon fiber tube and lots of serious-looking aluminum bits. The OTA weighs 240 lbs, and Meade suggests using four people to hoist it atop the mount. The owner of this unit made a custom lift for the OTA, and says he can set the telescope up with only one other person, or, in a pinch (if he's very careful) by himself. Unfortunately, the owner was initializing the scope when I passed by that night, and I didn't got back to the area, so I never got to look through it. Meade's 20" RC Was A Popular Scope, Even In The DaytimeNear the Meade was another RC. Photographer Steve Roffo had a magnificent Takahashi-based rig, using an FRC300 RC ($25,495) mounted atop a Takahashi EM500 mount ($12,000.) Both the mount and the tube are signed by their designers. An FS78 serves as a guidescope. Judging by what he showed me on his laptop, Roffo is doing some amazing work. Steve was setting up for some imaging work when I stopped by later that night, so I left him alone. Steve Roffo's Lustworthy Takahashi SetupAlso on hand was one of Tak's new FSQ106ED "New Q"s ($3995). The new versions have larger tubes (forget about using your old 114 mm rings on this baby.) Other features include a rotating "captain's ring", dedicated focuser lock on the bottom, and new graphics. The tolerances on the scope are so tight that it's hard to pull off the dustcap - you feel like you're working against a vacuum. Think I Can Outrun The Photographer?There was also one of the new Takahashi TOA tubes on a G11 mount ($2000) as well. A local club member has one of these, and I'm working on a review. A Takahashi TOA on a G11 MountI was also pleased to see one of AP's new AP160 EDF Starfire APOs ($8950) on their new Mach 1 mount ($5950). The New AP160There were lots of Obsession Dobs out there. I think I saw at least one of every model up to the 25" in the observing field. 25" Obsession ($11,995), with 18" Obsession ($5895) in backgroundA nice couple from PA showed me their his-and-hers 15" ($4495) and 12.5" ($2995) Obsessions. These are the only two Obsession Dobs that can be used without ladders, so if standing on the ground is a priority to you, these are the models for you. Of all the scopes in the field, I spent the most time with the 12.5" Obsession. The scope is a pleasure to use - its motions are buttery smooth, and under dark skies, you can do a lot with 12.5". I had a nice time sweeping the skies looking at the Ring, Dumbbell, M11, M8, M20, M13 and M92, M33, M31, NGC 7331 (sorry, no Stephan's!), M15, M81 and M82, NGC6934, and others. Obsession's 12.5" and 15" Dobs, waiting for duskPaul L was showing off his modified Starmaster Oak Classic. Regular readers of this site know that this unassuming 7" Dob is one of my all-time favorite scopes. Unfortunately, it's no longer made. Paul made some nice changes, including a new, longer, fan-cooled tube, a low-profile Moonlite focuser, new varnish, and a modified base for a Rigel Quik Point. The scope gets topped off with beautiful wooden end rings. A Favorite Dob Gets Even Better - A Modified Starmaster Oak ClasssicBy 11 PM, the length of the day was starting to get to me. I wish I had gotten to look through more scopes. Also, some clouds were rolling in. I decided to call it a night. I drove back the following morning. It was a great time, but I was exhausted by the time I got home. I had only been gone 38 hours, but I'd been awake for 30 of them, including a marathon 21 hour day on Saturday. Thanks to Roger G and Dave L for letting me set up near their area, for Howie Glatter and his wife for serving me a hot meal at dinnertime, and of course, for those of you who attended my talk and laughed at all my dumb jokes. Y'all were the best! -Ed
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