Last updated: 13 October 2001
"Nightfall" and the "Mighty ETX Star Party" were held as scheduled 14-15 September 2001. None of us involved wanted to yield our Freedom as a result of the events of 11 September 2001. For most of us, the Star Party was a welcome diversion from the TV as we turned our eyes instead to the heavens to behold the beauty and peace there.
Borrego Springs, California was hot and clear. Most people arrived in the afternoon and early evening on Friday. The Palm Canyon Resort was a nice location for a star party and the accommodations were good. Here are some photos of the Resort area; you can also see some telescopes.
At night the Resort replaced all its external light fixtures with red bulbs. Nice touch.
Our first session began 7pm on Friday in a meeting room in the Resort. Everyone in attendance introduced themselves. There were a few no-shows but we also added some people who came because they saw the "Mighty ETX Star Party" sign that the Resort had placed in the lobby.
By the end of the weekend, we had 25 individuals and families and I was thrilled by that. There were some questions and answers, and a couple of door prizes (eyepieces from Oceanside Photo & Telescope, (OPT)) awarded. Then we went outside to set up and observe. I setup my ETX-90RA (the original Mighty ETX) to do some piggyback astrophotography of the Milky Way (I'll post the results when I get the film back). I never did count the ETX and DS scopes but there were a bunch. The night sky was clear, the Milky Way very obvious. There were even a few meteors. One thrill was a pass by the Hubble Space Telescope. It was easily seen once you knew where to look. Another thrill was using the new ETX-105EC, which one attendee had brought. It was very evident that the mount and drive system had been improved from earlier ETX models. Tracking and slewing were VERY smooth and responsive. Several people used their Autostars to see objects that had eluded them from their homes. Others asked for and received some training in Autostar usage, and then they begin to experience what they purchased their ETX to do: provide them enjoyment of the night sky. Around midnight it began to get somewhat muggy so many people started heading back to their rooms, tents, or RVs. I stayed out to view Saturn through my ETX-90RA. Even though Saturn was low in the sky I was able to push the ETX-90 to 256x and observe many details. I packed it in about 12:30am.
On Saturday, about 10:30am, I setup my ETX-90RA for solar observing. A few people came by to look at the Sun. I took a photo of the Sun through the ETX-90 (with Solar filter) using the Nikon Coolpix 995.
I stayed out in the sun about an hour and then packed up. OPT had their "dealer RV" open and was selling many accessories and other astronomical items.
At 2pm we started our next session. Those attendees that had not arrived for the Friday night session introduced themselves. I had hoped that Dick Seymour and Clay Sherrod would be able to attend but events prevented them from being able to fly in. I gave a talk on astrophotography using both 35mm and digital cameras, and demonstrated the use of various astrophotography accessories. Several attendees contributed their experiences. Some Q&A was conducted. Some more door prizes (eyepieces supplied by Meade and OPT, a T-adapter, and some astronomy club memberships supplied by Nightfall) were given away.
I then surprised the attendees by introducing Steve from Meade; he was part of the team that developed the recently released Autostar Update Client 3.0 software. He was warmly welcomed by the attendees and answered many questions about the Autostar and new software. (Steve was also the attendee with the ETX-105EC.)
At dark many ETX and DS users were set up for the night's observing. It was clear although the seeing seemed somewhat less stable than the previous night. Once Saturn rose it was obvious that things were not quite as good as the previous night. But everyone still had a great time learning and observing. There were several bright meteors seen on this night.
For most of Saturday night, when I wasn't helping other ETX and Autostar users, I found myself just looking up at the stars with and without 7x50 binoculars. It was therapeutic to see stars rather than airplanes flying into buildings (an image which had been replaying in my mind's eye for days).
I took some shots of the Pleiades (only got a portion) and Saturn with the Coolpix 995. I'm still learning to use the CP995 for astrophotography so I'm certain it can perform even better than this.
Cropped from above full-frame image
I finally turned in shortly after 3am on Sunday morning. Most people had begun to pack up between 1 and 2 but there were still some observers out when I left.
During the two nights it was fun hearing reactions as new ETX users saw new sights. It really pointed out that amateur astronomy can and should be fun. I told many people to not get hung up on the perfect HOME position, just get it close and let the Autostar do its thing. For many this immediately increased their enjoyment.
Probably the biggest benefit of the Mighty ETX Star Party to new and experienced users, besides the dark, clear skies, was the opportunity to be with other ETX users, to learn from them, and to collectively experience the night sky. That is always true when amateur astronomers get together but I think the ETX community is especially appreciative of this. I encourage ETX users to conduct their own star parties in their local area. Post notices on the ETX Site, appropriate newsgroups, or at your local dealers, and/or contact your local astronomy clubs and schools. Have fun and enjoy the pleasures and wonders of astronomy.
Some attendees have sent in reports:
Subject: ETX Star Party Sent: Monday, September 17, 2001 12:46:33 From: email@example.com (James Jacobson) Just wanted to thank you and your lovely wife for organizing the ETX Star Party. It was some of the best deep sky viewing I have had with the DS-90, and also a lot of fun to meet fellow Meade Autostar users. Also very helpful to discuss Autostar issues, etc with others in person. Thanks again - -Jake J.
Subject: Nightfall Picture Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2001 11:52:05 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Carl Bernhardt) Thanks again for all your hard work to organize the ETX star party. Here is a night shot of the etx group. Because it is a dark picture, all the scratches on the film shows up. Let me know if you what this picture at a different resolution. I also have a few daytime pictures. Sincerely, Carl Bernhardt
Subject: Thanks Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2001 13:20:45 From: email@example.com (Tim Trimble) Just wanted to say thanks for the presentation at Nightfall/ETX Party. I'm not an ETX owner yet, (Currently use a 8" Meade DOB) but the family and I had a great time checking out all the different models. And we learned a lot about the astrophotography capabilities. Currently I'm taking a serious look at the ETX-105 for my next scope. Plus I'm hoping that our company can do some software development on the Palm OS platform for interfacing with the ETX. Speaking of software, I'm casting my vote for the Macintosh Meade software as well. Thanks again. ___________________________________________________________________ Timothy Trimble - Extended Technology Systems, Inc. "Extending Information via Handheld Computer Technology" Web Site: http://www.exts.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Mighty ETX Star Party / Nightfall Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2001 17:04:13 From: email@example.com (Stan Glaser) Hi, Mike -- Just wanted to thank you and your wife, Laurraine, for arranging the Mighty ETX Star Party this last weekend in Borrego Springs. I know that most of us were somewhat disappointed in the no-shows by Dick Seymour and Clay Sherrod as a result of the recent events in New York and the closing down of airports across the country. Still, it was fun to finally put some faces to names and share that common bond that all of us have -- the interest, wonder, and astonishment of the cosmos. Looking up at the night sky seemed to put things in a little better perspective for most of us, I think. It was also educational -- I learned a few things about astrophotography from you, while at the same time showing someone else how to get his ETX aligned correctly; there was a lot of sharing of knowledge Friday and Saturday nights. Looking through a few 12", 16" and 20" scopes (set up by members of the RTMC) located out in the RV camping area also proved to be a lot of fun -- my wife didn't realize that she'd have to climb 6 feet up a ladder to look through a 20" Dob!! Aside from the warm and humid Friday evening, the skies were crystal clear, there were a lot of great astonomical targets to search out, and having a chance to check out the new ETX-105 model started to get my wallet jiggling in my back pocket (just kidding!). Again, a big thanks!! Take care, and clear skies... Stan Glaser firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: Nightfall Picture Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2001 22:48:02 From: email@example.com (Carl Bernhardt) Here are some daytime shots.
Mike here: That's me in the white (Mighty ETX Site) T-shirt and hat and the original "Mighty ETX".
Subject: Nightfall Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 5:05:49 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Clay Sherrod) An Open Letter to Users of the Mighty ETX Site I wanted to thank everyone - including Mike Weasner and Mike Fowler from OPT - for expressing regret that Dick Seymour and myself could not be present at the fabulous first ETX star party. After seeing Mike Weasner's photo gallery, I can certainly see what I missed. Both Dick and I would have been there had we could. From my end, all flights in and out of Little Rock National were cancelled well into Thursday night in light of the horrible and senseless terrorism that gripped our great nation. An alternative had been to fly out with a good friend and Lear pilot who is also a Meade LX 200 owner from Dallas; alas, he was not allowed to fly either until Friday, by which time he had decided not to attend. Although wisely so, the decision to go ahead with the Star Party did have an impact on some of us who would like to have been present. The decision of all who planned it and Mike's decision to progress with the ETX portion was an excellent one, as life must go on or our enemy has won. However, the crisis obvious DID affect the lifestyles and plans of many. In this case, had I decided to drive out in the RV as originally planned I would have been there and had a chance to visit with those of you who I know well, and the many of you who I do not personally know, but had looked forward to meeting. I know from your phone calls that a lot of ETX and LX 200 users were expecting me to be there and I sincerely regret the fact that events precluded my ability to be so. I very much hope that all of you enjoyed the star party, the festivities and the camaraderie that was surely shared by all. Rest assured, God willing on all fronts I will be there unscathed at the second annual Mighty ETX Star Party. In the meantime, may your nighttime skies be blessed with darkness and the stars serve you well as beacons of discovery..... CLAY P. Clay Sherrod Arkansas Sky Observatory email@example.com
Subject: ETX Star Party Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 19:44:12 From: DonMcClelland@webtv.net (Donald McClelland) Thanks for the outstanding star party, it was a lot of fun and of course cudos to you for how well it was run and organized! An obvious success. My only regret was not attending more of the activities on Saturday but I was just too tired. Hope to do it again next time. It was nice meeting you and your wife in person, you guys were great. I also had an outstanding Prime Rib dinner on the other side of town Saturday night before the Star Party. Overall a great experience! Don McClelland
Subject: Thanks again Sent: Saturday, September 22, 2001 21:46:47 From: KingLear3@aol.com Mike: Thanks again for a fantastic weekend with other ETX users. Can't wait for the next year's party. If there are any Bay Area users who like to get together some evening please contact me or my wife, Nina, at Kinglear3@aol.com Leary Wong - Walnut Creek, Ca.
Subject: Star Party Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2001 18:50:48 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Spencer Petzold) I wanted to say the trip you put together at Borrego Springs was great. My father and I never thought the ETX is that MIGHTY. We used it to the point to where it was worth it ie: compact, basic viewing of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Moon etc., photography friendly, and terrestrial. But we would have never dreamed of galaxies and such. We really never knew it could do so much! Thank You, Spencer
Many thanks to the people who helped make the First Annual Mighty ETX Star Party a success. In particular I must thank Scott, Ken, and Steve from Meade Instruments, Mike Fowler from Oceanside Photo & Telescope, Bob Stephens of "Nightfall", and frequent ETX Site visitor Peter Ledlie (who contributed one of the door prizes). And of course, thanks to the attendees for coming and contributing their knowledge and asking their questions. Without the turnout that we had there would be no Second Annual Mighty ETX Star Party planned for 2002.
In early 2002 I will begin the planning for the next Mighty ETX Star Party. It is tentatively planned to be held somewhere in the Midwest United States. Don't contact me yet with any plans or suggestions. I will post a "Call for Interest" at the appropriate time.
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Click to read the 2001 Announcement.
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