Folks, I will post an entry re my time at Stellafane, I promise. However, the editor of our astronomical club newsletter forced me at gunpoint (really, he did! Really!) to write an article for the newsletter, so I will share something after that is published.
One thing that happened when I went there is that I tried to do astrophotography using a fisheye lens but screwed up with using too low an ISO (a measure of film sensitivity, leading to photos that were too dark (you’ll see them later.
After the debacle that was my failed attempt at astrophotography at Stellafane, I decided to try again.
This time, I originally planned to go to StarFest 2014 at Hopewell Furnace tonight, which is another amateur astronomy conference. However, I managed to get a light fever, and did not feel like going everybody else sick instead. I decided to do astrophotography work at home, and to also break out my telescope. There was not much that I could see in my sky, because there’s so much light pollution in Havertown, and the summer haze makes it worse. However, I was able to see the Big Dipper, four stars of the Little Dipper, and various other stars. I’d rate the transparency at a 4 and the seeing around 6. For here, It was a good night. I did manage to see Cygnus and the Summer Triangle, which was unusual for this time of year.
So, these are some pictures of my slightly better attempt at stack astrophotography. In the last two final photos, there are some slight diagonal lines. That’s due to the fact that I’m trying out a demo of Nebulosity 3–it’s a Mac program that does photo stacking. I was using my Canon 60D using my Rokinon 8mm Fisheye, set at infinity with an ISO of 1250 for a 10 sec exposure after a 10 second delay. I didn’t use bias or flat images, just dark images.
At Stellafane they have a swap table, where fellow enthusiasts sell the stuff that they no longer need.
I picked up an equalizer (compensates for the weight of 2″ eyepieces while using 1.25″ eyepieces so one can just counterweight the scope and be done with it (I no longer have to ask my child to be tied to the other end of the scope). I also got a Peterson mount for my 25x100s (it ain’t pretty, but it lets me use the 25x100s at zenith), and the seller threw in a set of Oberwork 20x90s with a 1.5x finder for $110.
Of course, as someone here said, if I don’t like it, I can always bring it back and sell it at the swap table. I responded to him that now I understand why there are people here who have come to each Stellafane since 1969, to much laughter.
I’ve been busy starting to do packing work and realize I have a bit more packing to do in front of me. I’ll be ready in time, though.
I’m looking forward to Stellafane, hanging out with fellow members of the Delaware Valley Amateur Astronomers, and learning about amateur telescope making (ATM). I already have two telescopes (10″ and 8″ reflectors) as well as three binos, so after I get a 80mm refractor, I’m done. But, I’d like to see how they are made.
I’d also like to try to pick up an 11mm Nagler eyepiece for mid-range observation (I have a 24mm eyepiece). I also have my eye set on a 3-6mm Nagler for really up close work, but that resides on my Amazon Wish List and won’t happen until after my next quarterly bonus.
I’ll have a bit more to post after this coming week after I go to Stellafane. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, check out this cool commercial for the Weather Channel about Cherry Springs State Park in the boonies of PA. That’s my next major destination.
Stellafane is about 2 months away at this point, however, the star party at Cherry Springs is a month away, and there are rumors of some DVAA members going to Blue Mountain at some point soon. So, I’ve been kicking the prep into high gear.
I’ll update this post as appropriate as we get closer, in case people like the way I pack and want to try it themselves.
First item of business is sleeping quarters. On a social worker’s salary, spending $100 per night or more on a hotel for just me is a bit much when it is Thursday through Sunday. So, I needed to look at other options. I looked at many tents, but ultimately decided to go with http://www.habitents.com/. They produce a tent that fits on the hatchback of any Prius from 2003 forward. Here’s a couple of stock photos from the Internet:
Below are some photos from what I have set up so far with my own car, graced with my daughter Luci channelling Vanna White. I still need to pack up more when the time actually comes. I’ll show you more pictures then. The photos below have not been touched up, so please accept the flaws.
First, this is what it generally looks like, with the windows of the tent down. The windows do, of course, go up. The chief advantages of using this kind of tent are to enhance ventilation, increase leg room, and enhance one’s Prius geek street cred. Basically, what you are seeing is that it attaches to the hatchback, which is up, and from which it hangs. It has the big door, and it also has two side windows. The windows have a plastic part that keeps out the rain, and the no-see um mesh part that keeps out the bugs. Of course, both can be opened. The Habitents is made out of 180T 1000 polyurethane coated polyester tent fabric. Polyester is stronger, more UV resistant and retains its shape better (does not stretch) in wind and rain. Polyester is naturally hydrophobic and the polyurethane coating increases its water resistance, according to the website. The hooks go in well below the paint, so I didn’t see any problems with putting it on in terms of scratches.
One question is about the waterproofness of it while the hatchback is open. The website purports that rain will fall into the groove in the picture below where it attaches to the hatchback and it will run off to the side. I haven’t tried it yet, but the next time we get a rainy night where I can sleep in it, I’ll give it a whirl to see.
The installation was easy. In the picture below, a long webbing pocket fits on the top of the hatchback to form something of a seal. Then, after draping it over the car, you lift the hatchback, pull the tent over, and lightly hook up the straps, tightening later. It took about 2 minutes the first time, so it could conceivably be done in a relative downpour.
Below is what the inside of the car looks like. The front seats are moved all the way to the front, and the back seat has the headrests off and are moved forward. The hatchback trunk cover is removed. That’s a Thermarest Base Camp XL mattress on top of a thick yoga mat. It fit fine.
OK, so she’s prettier than Vanna White.
And, the next two are me inside with a view of the neighborhood. I had PLENTY of room in terms of length (I’m 6’3″!) and could see sleeping pretty comfortably in there, assuming that I didn’t have a tremendous amount of other stuff keeping me company. More on that later.
It took a lot of junk food to make the mountain in this picture. I’ve seen smaller mountains on the Moon through my telescope.
As you can see in the pictures above and below, sitting room is an issue with this arrangement. Being 6’3″ and big, I needed to do some twisting to get around when lying down. Being new to the tent, I entered and exited by the side doors, which took some acrobatics. In the future, I’ll enter by the back flap of the tent, duh. Here’s Luci sitting comfortably with and without mesh. I was able to do the same when I cleared the part of the tent under the roof of the car and sat under the trunk door.
Habitents recommends that Prius campers purchase specific plastic containers for storage (about $6 each at Targét) which can be stacked between the back seat and the front seat (Sterilite 56 and 28 qt containers, stacked). I plan to put clothes, dry food, toiletries, etc. in these). The purpose is so that there will be a level space for the head to rest beyond the end of the back seat. Don’t let the picture below fool you. This worked just fine when I tried it, because my chest and head made the back seat go down to become even. While camping, I’ll have my pillow there.
Of course, the front seats will need to be storage spaces. I plan to put my car jumper battery there (to power my C-PAP, which will also be there), as well as food and whatever else will fit that MUST remain dry. To drive, however, the containers behind the seats must be moved. This arrangement, therefore, would be most comfortable for one person, less comfortable for two. I would not add more than that for this tenting situation.
I also noticed that even with the ventilation of the tent, it was still hot. So, I think I”ll bring a couple of old sheets to hang up along the length of the car windows for privacy, and I’m considering getting some no-see-um mesh to hang on the windows with magnets.
Price for the tent? $99.
Now, look. I know you are looking at the pictures. Yes, that’s a Prowler Regal in the backyard. Currently, we don’t have a car that can tow it, and for one person going camping, you can’t beat the gas mileage of a Prius compared to a Suburban towing the darned thing. I will miss using a shower, though.
We are selling the Regal, if anyone is interested. It’s a 40 footer with bells and whistles. Camping outdoors in the summer in air conditioning is quite popular.
Here’s what I’m thinking of bringing, if space permits. I’d love input on these, and have already benefited from some:
[ ]Credit card
[ ]Reading glasses
[ ]Umbrella and/or poncho
[ ]EZ Pass
[ ]Power cords for gadgets brought
[ ]Computer and cords
[ ]Iphone & cords
[ ]Ipad and cords
[ ]Toilet kit
[ ]Swiss Army Knife
[ ]Camera and charger and other equipment and lenses
[ ]C-Pap with backup mask
[ ]Wash car, check fluids and tires
[ ]neck pillow
[ ]Sleeping Bag/sheets
[ ]Sleeping Pad
[ ]Dew Shield (need to make)
[ ]Insect repellant (with DEET)
[ ]Red flashlight and red cellophane
[ ]Star Atlas
[ ]Reading glasses
[ ]Nylon rope/paracord
[ ]Bungee cords
[ ]Warm clothes, warm shoes/hiking boots, hat, warm jacket
[ ]Batteries for astronomy stuff
[ ]Allen wrenches
[ ]Duct tape
[ ]Electrical tape
[ ]Telescope/Binoculars with mounts (just bringing an 8×30 and a 10×50 with a p-gram mount to Stellafane)
[ ]White drop cloth
[ ]tent spikes
[ ]battery charger (have one for the C-PAP, need to purchase a second one)
[ ]Furniture (table, lounge chair)
[ ]Hiking sticks for tarp
[ ]Sterilite 28 and 56 quart container x2
[ ]Coleman stove and fuel, cooking supplies
[ ]Water container (5 gallon)
If space permits:
25×100 binos with tripod (can’t see the zenith with these, but can see other things)
Don’t worry, I will leave my bagpipes at home.
Any other ideas for packing?
I’m really looking forward to going to Star Parties to see what they are like, and I’m even more looking forward to meeting people and relaxing in the outdoors.
I’m looking for suggestions and questions and comments on ways to make camping at Star Parties more awesome, so feel free to comment here.
I haven’t posted much recently because we’ve been snowed in and I’m at a point with this weather that I’m ready to kill someone. There have been some clearer nights, but I’ve had it with the cold and looking at starry objects through cold-induced tears. Somebody really needs to complain to Congress about this weather, like they would do anything about anything anyway. Maybe I need to write an executive order?
I’m still working on my observation programs and trying to do more of the book reading end of astronomy.
I’m also in the process, with my family, of trying to put together the money, etc for going to Stellafane, an astronomy convention in Springfield, VT.
At Stellafane, they specialize in amateur telescope making. I don’t know if that is what I’ll be doing while there (they have other things to explore, such as astronomy activities for kids, scavenger hunts, starhopping activities, astrophotography workshops, keynote speakers, meteorite studies, astrosketching classes, and their annual telescope making competition which has telescopes big, small, and unusual.
Oh, and I forgot to mention. Night falls, and everybody checks out the telescopes while looking at the stars. As a graduate of the University of Vermont (class of 1989), I can assure you that there are definitely more stars there than here.
I’m also hoping to check out the Delaware Valley Amateur Astronomers (DVAA), the local star club. I would have gone earlier, but weather has been absolutely forbidding. Write your Congressman, please. When I go, I’ll let you know how it goes.
I like being a newbie at this. Learning something new and totally unrelated to what I do for work (I’m a psychotherapist) is refreshing. I know that I will make mistakes as I go along, but every mistake I made will be an opportunity to learn something new. I just hope to not make really bad mistakes.
One of my eventual goals with astronomy is astrophotography, the art of taking photos of what is in the sky.
This is a good discussion of the equipment and processes involved in looking at deep space objects.
Of course, all this equipment isn’t completely necessary, unless you desire to take pics of deep space objects. There are plenty of pictures out there of other kinds of objects that come out just fine.
The photos I have taken, for better or for worse, are from my Canon 60D on a tripod. The imaging workflow he mentions will bring out more of the colors, of course, and the software if free or cheap.
Of course, I have gear envy and would love to get all of the stuff he has. Who wouldn’t?