The first Starlight Festival was held in Big Bear, Ca over Memorial Day weekend. What a success!!
Friday night we were supposed to do a meteor shower party at
a local winery and we had a good time even without meteors. Explore Scientific had left an AR127 refractor at the winery for
display and for our use and it is a really, really nice scope. Of course we had a few dobs as well. Lucky for us it wasn't
too cold (mostly wimpy LA people).
During the day we were in the parking lot of the Northwoods Resort and there were booths, talks, demonstrations, solar observing and various children's activities. Mike Reynolds organized
the STEM tent and on Saturday alone there were over 1000 children doing hands-on activitis. We were lucky, our booth was right
across from the STEM tent so we had a steady stream on kids stopping by to practice grinding. Astronomer's Without Borders
was conducting live Skype conferences with astronomers in other countries. Best of all, one of our Sidewalk Astronomers from
Brazil, Marcelo Souza attended. It was nice to finally meet him in person and we hope to see him again next summer - maybe
we should take a little trip to Brazil??
Peggy and Rick Walker came from Broken Arrow, Ok to help out and run a sun scope. George Willis,
Katy Haughland, Bob Alborzian, Donna Smith and Syd Alee also helped running our booth. Before the event, Bill Nguyen from
San Diego had contacted us that he would be joining and helping out in our booth and he was a great help and we are lucky
to have him as one of our new members. I have to admit here that I was expecting someone a little older and was surprised
when he showed up but he turned out to be sarcastic, funny and irreverent - basically he fit right in.
The Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project was there with a several sun scopes and a boatload of enthusiasm. One of those scopes was a Lunt 60 (maybe 90) with
Calcium K blocking filter which inspired a boatload of envy to one in our group....
On Sunday, Peggy Walker gave
a talk about John and then he was given a lifetime acheivement award from Astronomy Outreach. This is the first Lifetime Achievement
Award and we think John is the perfect person to be the first recipient. The award itself is a sculpture, designed by John Safer and modeled after one of his previous sculptures, Galaxy. This particular piece was fabricated by Arlen Raasch of the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club (NOVAC). Arlen works with Mr. Safer and it is my understanding that NOVAC, along with the Safer family and Explore Scientific funded
the award. Our thanks to all of them. It is an amazing sculpture and if you look closely at the photo you can see that it
is a multitude of squares connected by small cylinder shaped dowels, there is no adhesive in the sculpture. A truly incredible
piece of work.
night, there were many, many telescopes out for the public. Our group divided and some stayed in the parking lot of the festival
and some went onto Village Drive. We all had steady lines all night and were observing from 8 until close to midnight. Many
astronomers showed up and needed to borrow scopes and many others brought ones with them. There public was also able to observe
through live video and cameras feeds.
During the weekend, RTMC was also taking place. CONGRATULATIONS to Jane Houston Jones of the Old Town Sidewalk Astronomers on being presented with the Clifford Holmes award (also a big congrats to the OT Sidewalk Astronomers on 10 years in the So Cal area!!). The Sidewalk Astronomers
donated a telescope to one of the volunteers at RTMC and I am sorry, but I haven't heard who won, I will update the article
when I know. BIG, BIG, BIG thanks to Sam Sweiss from Parks Optical / Lumicon for donating most of the parts of the scope and
to Daniel Belmour for building the mount. Also thanks to bob Alborzian and Tom White for preparing the taligate assembly and
to Katy Haughland for installing the spider. One thing did happen at RTMC that was disappointing, during Katy's talk
about John, she asked how many in the audience did outreach and very few hands went up. A lot of amateurs go to RTMC for imaging
workshops and swap-meets and specific talks, so maybe it was that we just got an unusual mix of people but they were attending
a talk about John so it was troublesome that so few were doing outreach. Or maybe they do but just didn't raise their hands
- I hope.
We had a lot of fun in Big Bear and a lot, a whole lot of people had the opportunity to see and learn something about
astronomy, space, and science.