Are you interested in volunteering for the Telescope Library? We have several important new positions available.
The Library needs at least one experienced observer for a newly created “Eyepiece Curator” position. We have over 350 eyepieces in our collection and a number of “spares” that can be used for a variety of applications. Some of the eyepieces included with telescope are not well-matched, but more urgent matters have precluded dealing with this problem until now.
Our collection needs a fresh look at eyepieces allocated to telescope packages; our goal is improving this across the collection. This will include modification of our pool of spares, and proposals for the acquisition of new eyepiece sets, as well as liquidation of others.
We will start by gathering any information we are lacking about the telescopes and eyepieces we have, examine it, and recommend equipment moves. (We are open to having multiple curators working together on this effort.)
Designated Review Observers
We are looking for experienced observers to come forward for our “Designated Review Observer” program to test and review telescopes new to the collection (and eventually move on to every telescope we have). This position can be held by multiple individuals who will take telescopes from the library, use them for observation, and (at least) takes notes on how the telescopes perform. We can work these notes into a review, for these pages, and any special notes about the telescope can be included with the package, so future borrowers can be more informed about the telescope they have borrowed. Flaws will be dealt with, raising overall quality of telescope being borrowed.
The Telescope Library is powered by volunteers, who have done excellent work (certainly worthy of a future article, maybe more) and provide the skills and talent it takes to operate the library keeping our collection in working order. If you think any of these positions is a good fit for you, please contact me: Bob Brown, Telescope Librarian.
Observational Astronomy Class for Middle School Students Offered by RCA in Partnership With Saturday Academy.
ASTRONOMY 101 April 13 – May 4, 2019 Four Saturdays, 10AM – 1PM Grades 6 – 8 Location: University of Portland
Ever looked up into the night sky and wondered what’s up? Experts from Rose City Astronomers will prepare you to explore the universe. Learn the fundamentals of observational astronomy, how to use binoculars and telescopes to explore the night sky, to observe planets, star clusters, nebula, galaxies. Learn about objects astronomers study, how and why our view of the night sky changes through the night, and with the seasons, how telescopes work and how to use them, and how to find your way in the night sky. We will finish with practical advice on how to prepare for a night exploring the universe. In addition to the classroom sessions, telescope-observing opportunities under the night sky will be offered. Students and their families will be invited to attend optional star parties with Rose City Astronomers after this class.
The curriculum is created and delivered by members of Rose City Astronomers. Registration, administration, classroom, computers, and promotional support are provided by Saturday Academy. To register your young astronomer, visit the Saturday Academy website. Don’t delay; registration is limited to 12 students
We have more star parties scheduled in 2019 than we’ve ever had before in one year. Two of them are in a semi-new location: White River Sno-Park, which we haven’t visited for years. View our complete downloadable, printable star party schedule.
What Else in 2019?
We’ve got a new contract with Haggart Observatory which will be reopening this spring. We’ve got a more solid relationship with International Dark Sky Association. We’ve got several star parties for new members lined up. We expect to hand out at least one more Master Observer Award from Astronomical League. We have an ever-greater reach with Facebook and social media, as well as increasing visits to our website. We’re doing more with local clubs like Friends of Galileo, and everything we normally do is bigger and better: Telescope Library, Telescope Workshop, Astro-Imaging SIG and class, Outreach Events, and Youth Scholarships.
So to keep it short and sweet, we’re looking forward to another great year in RCA and we expect to continue to grow in both membership and impact. Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s hope for a full calendar of clear skies and bright stars.
We are pleased to announce that 2 additional pairs of binoculars have been obtained, in response to borrower demand. The new binoculars are 20x80's, made by Orion. We had one pair of these, and they have been very popular. Now, we have 3 of them. The binoculars are paired with Orion "extra heavy-duty" tripods. These are heavier than the Orion tripods we have now, and should provide solid support for these large binoculars, better than the Orion field tripods we have for our other binoculars.
The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) hosted its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Utah this year and Dawn Nilson, RCA’s Dark Sky Preservation Director, and Mike McKeag, RCA’s Youth Director, were in attendance. Dark-Sky researchers and advocates came from all over the world — China, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States — to network and share preservation success stories, improved lighting technologies, scientific impact analyses, and outreach ideas. RCA’s list of 2019 “to do’s” in support of dark-sky preservation has grown thanks to the inspiration gained from our attendance at the AGM. You can lend your support to the cause in many ways.
Recently I’ve been asked more than once what telescope to buy for someone who wants one as a holiday gift, and the giver doesn’t know what to get. If you’re a recently-joined member or a parent or partner in the same situation, this article is for you.
Ask yourself a series of questions before you spend money on a scope.
What kind of vehicle do you have for hauling it around?
Do you want to take it apart each time you put it in the car and take it out, or do you want it in one piece?
How much weight can you pick up at one time?
How tall is the person who is going to use it?
What kind of budget do you have?
How serious is the potential user about taking it out into the cold and dark to use it?
How many accessories, like eyepieces and tripods, can you afford? Can you pack them into the same vehicle and remember to bring with you?
Do you have a lot of warm clothes that also fit into the same vehicle?
Do you have a table and a chair? A clock, a sky atlas, some notepaper and pens for taking notes? A planesphere? A thermos? A red LED flashlight? Extra batteries?
One of our most recent acquisitions is a Meade 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope (or SCT), with a new technology twist. Not only is it a GOTO telescope, but it is capable of aligning itself. We have numerous GOTO telescopes, and some that are "push-to", but the track the object, once it has been acquired. My experience with GOTO telescopes has been mixed; they work, mostly, but sometimes they don't, and the alignment process has to be repeated, eating into observing time.
The Meade ACF (for Advanced Coma Free) telescope, with "Light Switch" technology, ships with the claim that you can set it up, turn it on, and it will align itself correctly, every time. I am an old "Carefully align your equatorial mount" kind of observer, so naturally, I was skeptical. Before I put this in the collection, I wanted to make sure this technology actually worked. Lightswitch is an onboard CCD camera, which can be used for imaging. But the alignment system uses to to achieve a high level of accuracy in alignment, by matching the star field observed to what is expected, as the telescope visits alignment stars. I initially tried to align in mid-twilight, and the telescope informed me that it was not dark enough to complete alignment.
In preparation for next year, we have posted our downloadable, printable star party schedule on our website. There are several things that are new for 2019.
Ten-day Messier Marathon at Maupin begins Friday, March 8 and goes through Sunday the 17th. This event is not an OSP-style event. It just means the field will be open, the sanitary facilities will be there, and we will have permission for those entire ten days to be on the owner’s field.
White River Sno-Park on Mt. Hood is an area that RCA used in the past. It’s close to Portland, has bathrooms, is very large and flat, and has an easy entrance. It doesn’t have the best horizons and there is a chance that drivers with headlights could pull in after dark, but it’s better than Stub Stewart on that score, and there are no light domes.
The general plan of our star parties is that on new moon weekends we have a weekend event, and the Friday and Saturday a week earlier, during last quarter moon, we have alternating star parties at Stub Stewart and Rooster Rock.
Where we have indicated both Sky View Acres (SVA) and Maupin, we will determine where the star party will be as we learn more about the weather and the condition of the fields. Please watch the calendar, the Gazette, the Forum, our website, and the ppts from the general meetings for information on where these events will be.
We have scheduled alternative events for the Camp Hancock weekends for people who can’t take a full weekend off or drive so far.
The first joint Friends of Galileo/RCA Star Party on Mt. St. Helens is scheduled for Aug. 23.
We scheduled the Trout Lake Star Party to blend into OSP for those who want to do both. It could happen.
The OMSI public star parties are more spread out next year. They start in January with a total lunar eclipse and end November 11 with an exciting Mercury transit. And OMSI has plans for a major celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing.
Finally, because we live on hope, we’ve schedule two Bon Hiver (happy new year, good winter, season’s greetings) star parties because you never know: Sunday, Dec. 30 of this year and Thursday Dec. 26, 2019 at Stub Stewart and Rooster Rock. If the weather is with us, I’ll bring hot chocolate.
Our Latest Acquisitions: Our Telescope Library has had a great deal of traffic this year, and it is not over yet. Our peak season is summer, naturally, and activity is up over last year. Please note that we already have telescope reservations that go on into the winter, and we serve the membership year round. Recently, we reached something of a milestone: 40 telescope or binocular packages are now available for reservation via the website. The library may continue to grew slightly, but 40 is a good target. As new telescopes are introduced, we will be examining our collection much more critically, and retiring older instruments. Changes now will be toward newer gear, and more diversity.