Amateur Astronomy Club

Feedback from our members who attended Stellafane Convention

We had a good number of Aldrich Members attend this past weekends Stellafane Convention. Based on feedback received we believe 5 – 6 Aldrich members made it to the convention this year.

The convention happens every year around late July/early August when there is a new Moon. This year Stellafane was celebrating its 100th year as the Amateur Telescope Makers convention first started in Springfield VT in 1923.

We congratulate our members who braved the so-so weather forecast to attend this event which sounds like it turned out OK except for Friday rain based on feedback from our members below. 

This was the first year I went to Stellafane in style and comfort because we brought our camper we purchased last summer.

The weather was horrible Friday morning with a downpour but that was the last of the rain. After the rain stopped I attended and recorded 3 telescope making sessions. I have a 6” mirror kit I would like to finish for next year. They had free mirror coating courtesy of Alan Ward and his portable vacuum coating machine.

The skies cleared and we got 3 hours of very good observing conditions that night. I brought my RedCat51 and imaged the NA & Pelican nebulas. While imaging, I sat on the hill and just scanned the southern skies with my binoculars. The Milky Way was bright and beautiful.

Next morning I got up to sell some stuff at the swap tables. I did pretty well and made about $800. (Aldrich member) Tom Lucia was there and we chatted for a bit.

There was a really cool Schiefspiegler scope design in the competition and many other amazing scopes up at the pink clubhouse. They also had a poster presentation on the original members of the club from 1923. Saturday night was supposed to be cloudy but after the 4 hour 100th anniversary convention presentation and keynote the skies cleared again. I spent about an hour or 2 observing with my binos.

Joe Rao’s keynote on a lifetime of eclipse chasing was excellent. He was a great presenter.

I traveled up to Stellafane after Friday's morning rain and stayed through the optical judging of homemade telescopes submitted for competition later that night. There were a number of interesting entries. I was most interested in a 10 inch f/5 Newtonian entered by a Stellafane Mirror Making Class participant, whose mirror I assisted in silver coating. The skies cleared nicely for the judging (and all others wishing to enjoy the view from Breezy Hill and the observing grounds beneath the McGregor Observatory) and remained clear and dark until midnight or so before the clouds rolled back in. The Milky Way was very distinct; in fact I was able to easily pick out both the Lagoon Nebula (M8) and the Trifid Nebula (M20) with the naked eye. It was an enjoyable evening as I met up with a couple of our members. I headed home at about midnight 'to be rested' for our Club's Star Party (since Saturday night was supposed to be a winner!). Attached (below) are a couple of photos as evening approached up at the Stellafane clubhouse atop Breezy Hill.

Pictures below compliments of Steve Bodine…

The Dynamic Eclipse Broadcast Initiative presentation (Richard Danley and Chris Mandrell) on Saturday has an exciting premise: the live-streaming to YouTube of video from all along the 2024 April 8th shadow path. It prompted me to dig out my ZWO ASI120MC camera. To my chagrin, while I found a rather large set of compatible C-mount lenses (five of 'em, ranging from barely 2mm up through a rare 100mm fixed focal length), there was neither "hide nor hair" of the 120. I wonder what I did with it. If I gave it away, please keep it but let me know.

The Evolute Tester for Optical Surfaces presentation (Terrell Koken) showed off some new technology that might evolve into everyday optician tools that can handle even substantially sized aspheric components. I'd love to see a Make-magazine follow-on where somebody MacGyvers one of these things into a garage workshop.

Here's the summary from the Stellafane schedule: "An evolute is the locus, or collection, of centers of curvature of a curve. The Evolute Tester is a patented device that provides unprecedented precision in the testing and characterization of optical surfaces, concave, convex, flat, and other. It needs no auxiliary optical components to work. The current embodiment of it can test surfaces up to about fifty-two inches in diameter, to a precision determined by the diameter and f/ratio of the surface. While some mathematics is involved in the development and theory of the device, its use is computer controlled, and the mathematically faint of heart need experience no anxiety in this regard."

As always there is lots of fun talking to people, some of whom were just at the nearby hotel (Sark Island Dark Sky Ambassador Bob) and even a small few who are amateur astronomers but weren't attending Stellafane (Wil from Burlington, VT and Eemeli from Finland/Suomi). I did perceive a common thread for astronomers "of a certain age:" the difficulties in transporting equipment that seems to gather additional heft with each passing year. An increased appreciation for naked eye observing (and the priceless nature of dark skies)...

“It’s always an experience when enthusiasts come together and celebrate what they love, and Stellafane’s 100th anniversary brought together hundreds of people from all over the country. The Springfield Telescope Makers outdid themselves with touching tributes to their founder, Russell Porter, and to the contributions of all those who have carried on the spirit of Stellafane for 100 years. The Telescope competition highlighted the real core of Stellafane’s tradition, and competitors were lucky with clear, dark skies and excellent seeing conditions from the top of Breezy Hill. It was a perfect night to enjoy the late summer skies, and with brilliant views shared through all kinds of telescopes the experience was unforgettable. I enjoyed talking to and learning from experienced stargazers, including fellow Aldrich members, who pointed out objects I’d never seen before and reminded me why astronomy is so fascinating and engaging. Everyone came together to make the 100th anniversary especially memorable, and this year’s convention made it easy to imagine how the Springfield Telescope Makers and Stellafane could very well continue for the next 100 years and beyond.” Photos below... The Stellafane clubhouse, scopes set up for the optical telescope competition Friday night, and two photos form Saturday of people checking out the competition scopes during the afternoon.

1 thought on “Feedback from our members who attended Stellafane Convention”

  1. With the Stellafane weather being questionable, I waited to drive up until Saturday morning by myself after 2 family members bailed on me and their pre-paid admission & meal. Being the 100th Anniversary I wasn’t to miss it. My original plan was to go early Friday morning to get my 10″ mirror re-aluminized and later that day get my 12″ mirror tested, but being a fair-weather camper I chose Plan B instead. My mirrors can wait for another year. First thing I did was make my way to the T-shirts and raffle tickets. I think everyone else had the same idea because by the time I got there all of the large & extra-large were gone. The medium will have to do. After that I made my way up thru the observing field toward the Breuning & McGregor Observatories to see which large Dobs I hoped to be looking thru that night. Next stop was the Pink Clubhouse and the Telescope competition where I met Dave Kelly, who had tested my 10″ mirror 2 years ago. He had a beautifully machined truss Dob entered this year, my favorite. There was another nicely wood crafted truss Dob that I considered a close second. But the most inovated I thought was a binocular-mounted zero gravity recliner set on a lazy-susan where all of your adjustments could be made while lying back looking up at the heavens. Now if that couldn’t get my wife out there looking beyond the casual glance, nothing can. I stopped by and talked with Alan Ward to see if the weather impacted his mirror aluminizing and much to my disappointment, he aluminized 18 mirrors that weekend. Maybe next year. I sat in on a couple of lectures during the afternoon and dropped by to see Mario Antonucci down in Mario’s Hollow where Aldrich has spent many a Stellafane weekend in the past. I’ve spent the last 2 with him & would have done so again this year, but the skies were not going to clear until midnight there abouts. So, after eating 2 pre-paid barbeques & giving the 3rd away under threatening skies, I sat in on the evening talks while they read off someone else’s winning tickets. While I didn’t take in any nighttime viewing and it was too overcast for daytime solar observing, it was worth the trip and always look forward to next year, August 2-4.

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