Lockwood Custom Optics at the 2011 Okie-Tex Star Party

Dark skies, wide angle lenses, and a week of relaxing

All images and text Copyright Mike Lockwood, 2011

Again, this year, I will let the images do most of the talking.  It is beginning to be a habit for me not to drag a telescope to various star parties because I don't generally end up using it much, and I'm always observing through other telescopes.  This year I brought my bike instead.  I probably used it more than I would have used my scope.

John Pratte, 
owner of JPAstrocraft, LLC, and I made the trip with his 25" f/4 scope.  I also extensively used 22" f/3.3 and 32" f/3.6 telescopes owned by clients.

After making it to the middle of Kansas on day one, we headed out on day two on the long diagonal, southwest through central Kansas, trying to stay on the diagonal road while the GPS sought to "improve" our route.  At one point I fell victim to the GPS and we ended up heading straight west instead of southwest.

Ever feel like things happen for a reason?  I often do.

After realizing we were not on our ideal route, I cursed the GPS woman and looked for the next turn south.  As we left a small town, I noticed a historical marker, and the words "Discoverer of Pluto" were readable as we rolled past.  I told John and we turned around and headed back for a photo of John and the marker.

Clyde Tombaugh marker

Of all the places for a wrong turn to lead, we ended up in Burdett, Kansas, and it was where Clyde Tombaugh grew up!

Based on the look of the place, I'd say not too much has changed there since he viewed the sky from there with his homemade telescopes.

We drove on through the flatland, searching for a spot for lunch on a Sunday.  Sublette, KS appeared to be a decent sized town on our route, so we turned off into the main street and found downtown.  A bunch of cars in front of a restaurant is usually good, and this place was drawing a crowd.  After a short wait we were seated and had a good meal.  I had fish, because I knew I'd be eating beef for the forseeable future at the star party.  John had chicken fried steak.  More on that later....


We arrived at the star party mid-afternoon, and set up.  I unloaded my gear into the bunkhouse with some of the star party organizers.  John set up on the east side of the field near some friends.

As luck would have it, dinner was - you guessed it - chicken friend steak!  The next morning, John said that he strongly recommended against eating that twice in one day.

What followed over the next several nights were some intermittent clouds on some nights mixed with clear skies.  Many complained about the clouds passing through and even forming or disappearing over the star party site, but after going to quite a few Winter Star Parties, a few clouds don't bug me.

I observed, got out for one bike ride on a windy day, finished working on my two talks, which I gave on Thursday afternoon, and experimented with mounting my camera on various telescopes.  The resulting images follow.

Up a ladder

Above:  The 32" scope produced fine views, and my camera was clamped to it occasionally for some photo ops.

Northern lights

Above:  While trying to get a shot of the winter Milky Way rising, I also got M31, the Double Cluster, and a faint display of northern lights!  This was purely accidental, and I didn't even notice them until I downloaded the photo.  John Pratte sits at the eyepiece.  The camera was mounted on the mirror box with the scope tracking.

Observing near the Milky Way

Above:  I stare at some patch of sky near the Milky Way.

Thank you!

Above: Finally, a little bit of an artistic shot in a tribute to beautiful skies.

We rolled out on Friday morning, and made it back to Illinois on Saturday afternoon with plenty of time to meet with Bob Holmes and inspect the 50" cast cellular blank that will soon be turned into a mirror for his nearly-finished massive instrument.

I hope to see you and your telescope at a future Okie-Tex Star Party.

Clear, dark skies, warm weather, good friends, some good beverages, and good seeing.

  -Mike Lockwood, Lockwood Custom Optics

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