All the months spent planning and the hard work of several Delmarva Star Gazers came to fruition March 1st through the 3rd at Mallard Lodge, Smyrna, DE. Overall, we had a great and successful weekend of mirror making, prominence scope assembly, and web camera hacking. We were all typical amateur astronomers; enthusiastic, courteous, willing to share and learn from each other. Our accommodations and surroundings fit our needs very well and provided a learning experience for those who wandered through the marsh.
Our mirror making guests could not have been a better lot. They endured the "tunnel of despair" (our mirror-testing tunnel made of PVC pipe and black polyethylene), turned down edges, oblate spheroids, hills, holes, too hard or too soft pitch laps, and various other obstacles for first time mirror makers. Most finished their mirrors and went home with a quality optic that will provide years of satisfaction. They also went home with the knowledge and confidence to repeat the process - if they decide to do so. Many thanks to Steve Swayze (Swayze Optical) and Steve's brother, Bruce, for their exceptional assistance and guidance through the mirror making and figuring process.
Our prominence scope makers faced an easier task. Due to Star Gazer Dave Groski's extensive effort to provide a complete kit that could be easily assembled with minimal tools ("just a screwdriver and a pair of pliers….") the scopes were assembled in one afternoon except for installing the hydrogen alpha interference filter. The filter story here is one of "just in time". Our filters were delivered via UPS Special Delivery at 2:30 PM Saturday afternoon. There were shouts and cheers when the filter package arrived - weeks of doubt were erased and several stress lines left Dave's face. But, just as the weather turns wet when you buy a new convertible, the skies clouded over when the filters arrived and we were unable to test the scopes before the weekend ended. However, several prom scope makers have since communicated their positive results, ie, "I can see prominences!!", and they are very happy with their instruments. Special kudos to the filter maker for his diligent work to ensure we obtained the perfect filter.
Doug Miller hosted the Web Camera Hackers. These guys waved a magic wand over their inexpensive web cameras and some video cameras and images appeared on their monitors. I am sorry I missed the formal presentation (I was busy pouring pitch laps and helping the mirror makers with the magic of mirror making). But I did hear and see enough of the information swap to whet my appetite for more information on camera hacking.
Speaking of appetites - Delmarva Star Gazers are known for good and especially plentiful good food. This weekend was no exception! The Delmarva Star Gazer ladies provided breakfast, lunch and dinner in great quantity and superb quality for all three days. Sitting down to eat a fine meal with fellow amateur astronomers is a pleasant experience. It is another avenue of sharing that is so enjoyable and so characteristic of amateur astronomy. Thanks to Kathy Sheldon, Karen Surles, Sheri Jones and Gina Acker for providing their astronomical menu of fine food.
As I said in the beginning, this Second Annual Mid-Atlantic Mirror Making Weekend was a very successful weekend of amateur astronomy. Stay tuned for the 2003 version.
President, Delmarva Star Gazers