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Bigger is not necessarily better - and Glacier Point star party


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#1 OleCuss

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 08:10 PM

I live in the Central Valley of California.  I recently got an LS-8 and this forum was very helpful even before I signed up so I signed up, went to the sub-forum and thanked the forum in general and one member in particular.  My second post sort of felt like whining about the light pollution in one of the locations where I usually get to do what is technically public outreach several times per year - the light pollution is very bad but I enjoy sharing the skies anyway.

 

My club gets one of the summer star parties at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park.  We are talking dark skies (not superbly dark, but very nice indeed) and an elevation of a bit over 7,200 feet so I consider the skies on a good night to be spectacular (not exaggerating).  When people with flashlights have gone away my wife won't walk the sidewalks unless I'm holding her hand because in some areas it is just so dark she can't see where the sidewalk is  - and I do a bit better.

 

Anyway, I'd encourage anyone who can to go to one of those summertime star parties.  If you go to this site:  https://www.nps.gov/...it/programs.htmyou will eventually find the list of scheduled weekends in Yosemite and discover which club will be up there.  You can usually expect 8-20 scopes there - sometimes someone will bring something as big as an 18" Dobsonian.  Spectacular to see what a big Dob will do under those dark skies at that altitude!  I've been known to show up on a night when another club was running the show and if they perceived the need for another scope I've set one up and done the party with them (most clubs are friendly and the members who do public outreach are usually the friendliest).

 

There is typically a ranger talk at the Point itself and we set up in a nearby amphitheater.  The club will usually give a bit of a talk about something astronomical and also try to get them the idea about light discipline, not to touch the scope, etc.  Then the public will start to circulate and view through the various scopes.  You can have hundreds or just one or two dozen (the smaller crowds are unusual).  Usually after an hour and a half the public is gone and the club members have gorgeous skies all to themselves.

 

Now for why this is in this particular sub-forum?

 

One time I brought both my 10" LX200 and the ETX-80 I had at the time.  I set them up within a few feet of each other and put very similar Plossls in each (I think they were 25mm and 26mm but I don't remember which was in which scope.

 

The ETX-80 mount was making annoying beeping noises as it tried to emulate R2D2 but it was tracking fine.  I set up both instruments on the Andromeda Galaxy.  Yup, you guessed it, a whole bunch of people wanted to look through the LX200 because it was much bigger.  Nice view of the core and some of its surroundings but I was personally not overly impressed.  The ETX-80, OTOH, perfectly framed the Andromeda Galaxy and gave me what I consider to this day to be the 2nd most beautiful view of the Andromeda Galaxy I've ever had (my 80mm ED-Doublet spotting scope does edge it out for #1).

 

Anyway, the primary point is that small scopes are not inferior, just different.  Not a big surprise to folk here, but I do like to point it out at times. . .

 

The other point is that public outreach can be quite rewarding because you get to meet a lot of good people who are there to appreciate the stars.  If you do a star party like Glacier Point then you get the additional benefit of gorgeous skies.

 

It seems that lots of National Parks now have Dark Sky or Night Sky Festivals.  My wife and I have done them at Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Joshua Tree National Parks.  The Grand Canyon (South Rim) we found to be spectacular as well.  Joshua Tree we were largely clouded out the time we went.  But if you check out the Parks you may get a chance to share and glory in some spectacular skies.


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#2 MistrBadgr

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 12:28 PM

Excellent post!  You made some very good points.  Bigger not always being better rings a bell with me.  From my personal experience, I think each size and type of telescope has its niche and many can really surprise you with what they can do.

 

I may have to try out a national park sometime.  I have not been to one for astronomy, even though I grew up next to, what was then, the smallest one and considered it my play ground.

 

Bill Steen


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Bill Steen, Sky Hunters' Haven Observatory, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

#3 RickScofield

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 05:18 PM

I agree on size as well and I also believe Bill is correct in saying each has its own niche. Anyway the national park service does offer some remarkable dark sky locations but folks also need to consider the state park systems as well. Nebraska for example has some fantastic state parks offering extremely dark skies, Indian Cave State Park and the Valentine State Park just to name a few. A tool that I have found that makes for an excellent out reach is the Revolution Imager. It offers a fantastic view of the heavens for all to share and has triggered allot of discussion because folks all see the same thing at the same time on a monitor rather than one at a time at the eyepiece. By the way I am not trying to sell hardware but rather share information that may be useful to others.

Best of luck to all and cloudless nights,
RickScofield




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