Visit Chiefland, visit
friends, head to the Keys for
some superb seeing, visit relatives, swing by Chiefland again
All images and
text Copyright Mike Lockwood, 2012. May not be used without
worked long hours in the fall and over the not-so-cold Illinois winter
this past season, I wanted to spend longer in Florida in 2012 than I
had in my whirlwind tour in 2011.
In fact, last year I wrote "Overall,
this trip was over too soon. I could have used a few more
unwind after a very busy winter of optical work, so I resolve now to
add those days to next year's trip. Hell, maybe I'll add
my own advice, I did just that and extended my vacation to make up for
the nights and weekends that I had been working to get caught up.
I left Tuesday morning, and found a blanket of snow on the
and some of the roads. I drove on snow-covered roads very
carefully for ~20 miles just southeast of Charleston, IL, and was quite
relieved when I finally found clear roads and I could relax a bit.
One long day on Tuesday got me to southern Georgia, and then
arrived at the Chiefland
in the early afternoon on Wednesday. A visit to Tom and
Clark's place was first on the list, as they were preparing to move to
their new place at the New
Mexico Astronomy Village.
After 40 years in Florida, the Clarks are looking forward to living in
place that was less humid in the summer, under skies that hold
less humidity year-round, and
which are closer to the national parks that they love to visit.
At the time of my first visit on the way to WSP, Tom was
for the truck to show up to move all of his shop equipment to his new
The photo below, taken with a fisheye lens, shows Tom and I with his
telescope, which was still assembled pending my visit. With
mirror needing recoating, Tom asked me to test out the optics to see if
they needed a tuneup. I also insisted on testing the edge
of the mirror cell, and checking the mounted secondary.
some brief viewing sessions between clouds, we planned the jouney of
the optics and cells to my shop. John pratte would squeeze
mirror and cell into his van for the return journey, and I would stop
by again on the way home to rest up and pick up the secondary mirror
clouds coming and going, observing was not going to happen, so I
decided to photograph Tom's observatory before he moved out of it.
By leaving the shutter open and rotating the dome, its
could be seen, including Tom standing on his user-friendly rolling
observing ladder/staircase, and Dana operating the dome controls.
I was on Tom's 12-foot ladder with the camera clamped to the
on a small tripod. The shadow of the ladder and some trees is
visible on the outside
of the dome, and these were created by distant cars driving down one of
the roads near CAV.
has sold his house and shop to new owners, seen below on the left.
I almost got everyone to smile at the same time for this
in which we have, from left to right, Jonesy, Jenny, Jeannie, and Tom.
Bear, the dog, is wondering what is going on, and who will
give him food.
took a short tour of CAV, but in particular I wanted to see the
telescope below, which I had made the optics for a few years ago.
In the photo below Barry, left, and Tom stand and admire
16" Dream Astrograph. Also notice just how close the dome is
the roll-off observatory.....
it wouldn't be close for long - Barry had a plan. Some wooden
"tracks" were constructed, and the dome was cut free of its old
supports and literally rolled to its new location, not far from its old
location. Of course the massive concrete pier could not be
and would be duplicated in its new location. So.... old
.....and below is the new location.
was even more activity at Chiefland. Below, Bear the dog says
"let's go see what Dana is up to". Actually Dana's up on the
second floor of his beautiful brand-new observatory. The only
things that will improve the photo of the inside of his dome is a
cooler full of beer and a nice
28" Starmaster telescope sitting in the middle of it!
the image below, we see it from the outside, with the future workshop
on the right. Looks like it's almost ready for a grand
party. Knowing these guys, there will be plenty of quality
beverages at the grand opening.
Friday I headed over to join John Pratte at Andrew's place, and he had
his yearly star party on Saturday night. He does this because
we're always there with our telescopes, ready to head for the Keys on
Sunday or Monday. This year there were some imaging
as you can see in the image below, and some visual scopes a bit farther
from his building.
couple of guys were trying to get the fork mount, also seen in the
above photo with a couple of small scopes mounted on it for
alignment/calibration purposes, to track and goto properly.
offered beer to the benevolent, yet irritable gods of astroimaging, but
the gods were not thirsty or didn't care for that type of beer.
So the guys enjoyed the beers and had some
limited success on this partly cloudy night.
some nice views through the telescopes and lots of cursing at computers
and electronics, the clouds rolled in and we moved the party indoors.
next day we drove south, and reached the Keys where we had a nice
seafood dinner to celebrate our arrival. John, Bob (pictured
below) and I then enjoyed some tasty
beverages at the resort where we stayed, complete with my thermometer
of the temperature and emailing back to the frozen north.
was the first time I had not stayed on-site, and I enjoyed a bit more
sleep than I usually got in previous years.
the star party, you run into all kinds of interesting people, like
Tippy D'Auria and Steve O'Meara, who were hanging around before the
talks began on Tuesday afternoon. My talk was at 1pm, and
was right after me.
capture the feeling of WSP, this year I brought a fisheye lens to get
some full-sky images. The first thing I did was to plop the
camera down right in the middle of the driveway to capture the sign,
palm trees, and tropical sky overhead. Orion is visible at
between the two palm trees, and the Beehive cluster is visible at the
zenith, in almost exactly the center of the image.
In the next image below we see John Pratte, of JPAstrocraft,
observing with his 25" f/4 telescope.
Above him can be seen some blue/purple streaks, which are
Bob Summerfield's laser pointer indicating the Pleiades and the Hyades.
This laser pointer was obviously a very high-powered model,
only one allowed at the star party, because Bob was doing a sky show at
time for some of the kids that were attending the star party with their
families. Saturn was stunning in John's scope on one evening
after I had gone to sleep, and he said it was the best view he and a
few others around had ever seen of the ringed planet.
image below was taken just to get a conspicuous palm tree into an
image, and to show brilliant Venus setting in the west, with Jupiter
just above it. Jupiter provided superb views as darkness was
falling, and the views were limited only by cooling optics.
Canopus is just visible at the bottom of the image, over the
southern horizon. The infamous radio tower is visible at the
top, of course, along with the power poles and lines.
someone observes through the fork-mounted long-focus Newtonian that
always seems to be set up down by the water every year at WSP.
The owner observes through his 32" scope containing my optics, and
stars reflect in the primary mirror in the next image below.
His suspended boundary-layer
scrubbing fan can be seen suspended above the primary, cooling the
front of the mirror. The back is also cooled, and this
arrangement worked rather well. This year's star party was
and more humid than others that I have experienced, so the mirror
didn't have quite as far to cool to get near ambient. Views
through this scope were outstanding, with Mars at ~900x revealing more
detail than many observers could recall from any view, and the Ghost of
Jupiter filling the eyepiece at ~2600x! This is exactly why I
to star parties - to share views through big telescopes with good
optics. As a bonus, I don't really have to bring a telescope
the power lines overhead - while well out of reach of the telescopes,
they were with reach of the lights of cars passing on US 1 less than a
hundred feet away. While the trees mostly blocked this light,
light traveling down the wires looked almost like meteors, and fooled
us a few times before we got used to it. I began calling them
"Power Lineids". Others liked it, and
so it stuck.
observing field is lit by red lights from the attendees, restroom, and
the red strobe on the radio/microwave tower that is across US 1 from
the camp. While it appears crowded, there was a bit more room
set up this year. Many nights were not very transparent, as
be seen in the photo below. The humidity seemed to improve
seeing (not surprising), and we took advantage by marveling at
high-power views of Jupiter,
Mars, and Saturn on just about every night. On a
few nights the breeze almostly completely stopped just after sunset,
and on at least two nights the mosquitoes came out in force to feed on
the blood of unprepared astronomers. It is rare for the wind
stop here, so we scrambled to find the bug repellent and then enjoyed
an hour or two of the telescopes not being buffeted by gusts.
image below shows Bob observing the jet in M87 through the 32" scope,
which I believe was the largest at the event.
Joe, Howie, and others stand in line to glimpse it.
it appeared as a wavering finger of God, going in and out with the
seeing, but definitely present and visible. This was the
time I had seen it, and as my large grinding machine toils away
figuring a 1.1-m mirror behind me while I type this, I can only imagine
the view of it with even more aperture at my disposal. Also
the southern cross to the right of the two palm trees, Omega Centauri
above the palm tree on the left, and the faint,
pinkish glow of the Eta Carina nebula just to the left of John's 25"
scope at far right. Al Nagler's refractor sits on a tripod at
bottom right. He spent lots of time viewing with it, but he
couldn't resist breaking away to marvel at the sights in the 32".
We departed on Saturday, and headed to my uncle's house to relax and
enjoy a margarita or two.
spent another week doing other fun Florida activities, and then headed
north on Sunday, just in time to catch a good-bye dinner for the Clarks
where they were joined by many long-time friends from Chiefland at a
Monday morning I left Chiefland, and headed for home. Not
getting tired, I kept driving and finally arrived home at about 1am,
ready to get a good night's sleep.
I look forward to my next
trip south, but also to a trip southwest to see what Tom Clark's 42"
soon-to-be-improved telescope can do under drier New Mexico skies.
(I'll bring some golf clubs, Tom, so I hope the weather is
and your range is open.)
Clear, dark skies, warm weather, good friends, and good seeing.
Lockwood, Lockwood Custom Optics