Archive for the ‘PVAA’ Category

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Observing Report: PVAA at the park, October 4, 2020

October 4, 2020

My club, the Pomona Valley Amateur Astronomers (PVAA), is gradually adjusting to the pandemic. From March through June, we didn’t hold any club activities. In July we had our first board meeting since February, virtually of course, and we decided to dip our toes into holding virtual general meetings. We also wanted to give people a way to interact in person, but safely, and someone proposed having a socially-distanced get-together at a local park. We had our first one of those at the end of July. I was out of town, on a brief family vacation after the end of summer teaching, so I missed that one. We’ve been trying to hold another one ever since, but heat and poor air quality have bedeviled us. We finally held another “PVAA at the park” event last night.

It was a combination swap meet, star party, and social event. In the photo above, we were just setting up, but we ended up with five telescopes on the field, representing every major design:

  • our club Treasurer, Gary Thompson, brought the blue homebuilt 8″ Dobsonian reflector you can see at the left of the above photo;
  • board member Jay Zacks brought his Meade ETX 90, a Maksutov-Cassegrain;
  • I had my Celestron NexStar 8SE, a Schmidt-Cassegrain;
  • club member Karen Lenz brought a 60mm or 70mm Tasco refractor (I forgot to check the specs);
  • club members Thomas and Stephanie Chavez brought their Celestron FirstScope, another small Dobsonian reflector.

Karen Lenz had brought her refractor to donate to the club. By complete coincidence, we had a visitor in need of a scope: an enthusiastic and knowledgeable 6th-grader. So Karen passed on her scope, our visitor got his first serious telescope, and everyone was happy. Despite the reputation of small, “department store” refractors, this one was solidly mounted and optically sharp, and it got a lot of use throughout the evening.

I took the NexStar 8SE, and used it to show guests Jupiter and Saturn, and the double stars Polaris, Mizar & Alcor, and Eta Cassiopiae. I tried various deep-sky objects, but they all looked pretty yucky. The only one that looked good enough to show off was M11, the Wild Duck Cluster.

I was having too much fun bopping around among the various telescopes and chatting with visitors to be in gear-evaluation mode. I was aware that the FOV of the C8 was bigger with the new focal reducer attached, but I didn’t do any serious testing. That will have to wait for another evening.

Around 8:30 we decided to carry some of the scopes over to the west, in hopes of seeing Mars over the trees at the east edge of the park. We got good views of Mars in Gary’s 8″ Dob, and then we spotted a break in the trees to try and get the moon. Our young visitor brought over the Tasco refractor, and Thomas and Stephanie brought over their FirstScope, and we spent 10 or 15 minutes just enjoying the sight of the moon coming up through the leaves. I got the above photo through the refractor, and it reminded me of the fun I used to have catching the moon rising through distant trees up on Mount Baldy (here and here). I need to get back to that.

All in all, it was a great evening. We had a good turnout, conditions were nice, we had a nice variety of scopes set up, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. I’m already looking forward to the next one.