Winter Star Party 2001

The following is a repost in an attempt to preserve some of my astronomical history.  Hope you enjoy this step back in time.  

The Cry:

The winter of 2000 was – well – cold! We had 15 days of temperatures below freezing. That is just too cold for me. Frustrated, I went to the net for help. I posted the message below to the Astro-photography mailing list on January 19, 2001.


Well, I have officially had it (too much winter for me already)! I am

planning a trip to Chiefland, FL < > for the Feb. new

Moon period starting around Feb. 21. Anyone want to get together down

there? If so, please reply to my email below so we can make plans off

line. I will be driving down from West Virginia. I have never been there,

so it will be all new to me.

I got a response! Kirk Rogers, from Maine, was going to the Winter Star Party in West Summerland Key, FL. He said he may have an extra ticket and asked if I was interested in it. The Keys were a little further south than I had originally planned for my trip. I would now have to take a full week of vacation rather than 2-3 days. Why not? Let’s go. I got a ticket and planned on meeting Kirk at the WSP.

The Skies:

The WSP is located between Marathon and Key West on West Summerland Key. It is held at the Camp Wasumkee Girl Scout camp. There are significant light domes from Key West and Marathon to the west-northwest and east-northeast, respectively. The southern view is quite nice and isn’t that what we are here for anyway? The following conditions were recorded for each night:

I would probably rate WSP skies as a Class 4 on the Bortle Dark Sky scale. The clouds to the south are not illuminated at all. If you just concentrate on southern objects to the zenith you will find the skies quite useful. I never looked at any deep sky objects 20 degrees north.

The People:

Rick Singmaster, Al Nagler, Tom Back, Markus Ludes, Jim Kendrick, Tom Clark, Mike Peoples and others. 

On Tuesday evening, a man and woman were walking around the campsites in stealth mode. It was Al Nagler and his wife. In retrospect, I believe Al was mapping out the location of all of the Televue scopes to return at another time for some field-testing. This night Al pointed my TV 85 to M46 / M47 to share the view with his wife. Later that night I moved my scope for a look at the Pleiades and saw horrific green colored stars. Oops! I had forgot that I left my Orion Ultrablock filter on my 22 Type 4 Nagler from the previous night while viewing Eta Carina. I told Al the story the next day and he had a chuckle and thought the view of M46/M47 was a bit dim. 

I had a very pleasant dinner conversation with Tom Clark and his wife one evening.  He extended an invitation for us to visit Chiefland sometime.  I hooked up with some friends from the Carolinas and we stopped at Chiefland for a night on our return trip home.  Conditions that night were heavy dew with ground fog.  We slept on the picnic benches (first for me).  I hope to return for an extended stay at Chiefland sometime in the future.

I also made some great new friends.  Kirk Rogers and George Whitney setup in camp with me.  They are great guys who are very knowledgeable about astronomy and photography.  They have great equipment to look through, too.  While I was taking pictures, Kirk and George let me play around with their LX200's.  Pretty nice, huh?

Hideaki Kimura, David Connor, and Paul Titus are new astronomy friends after WSP.  We observed together and drove to Chiefland on Saturday together.  I look forward to meeting up with them at future star parties.

WSP was also a chance for me to hook up with fellow astrophotography Joe Morris.  Joe had spent the previous week at Chiefland doing some AP.  He is a fabulous imager and I hope to work with him on other trips for astrophotography in the future. 

 The Scopes: 


Markus Ludes shares views through the 8" TMB with Coronado H-Alpha filter.

I can’t think of too many scopes that weren’t there. I did not see any large Takahashi refractors (5" or larger). I saw all Astro-physics except for a Stowaway and the Mak-Cass. Markus Ludes had 4 TMB’s on the field – 105 f6.2, 105 f8, 152 f8(?), and 180 f9. The Starmaster dobsonian dominated the observing field. I estimated the Starmaster to Obsession ratio was 6-1. The 36" yard scope was present.  There were some TEC Maks on the field.  A couple of 13" Coulter's.  Takahashi Epsilon 130's.   All TeleVue's.  Just about any type or brand of scope you could hope for was there.  


This observer was sharing tremendous daytime views of Venus through his 7" AP refractor.

The Observing:

One of the highlights was observing the Sun through Coronado solar filters. The view through the TV 102 and Coronado were simply awesome. Al Nagler commented that these were the best solar views he had ever seen. Markus had the TMB 8" setup with a Coronado and binoviewer. I did not get to look through this setup. The lines were quite long at times. I heard the views were outstanding.

I was extremely happy with the performance of my Kendrick/Baader solar filter on my 130 EDT. Granulation, sunspots, and faculae were very obvious. 

The highlights are definitely the planets and Omega Centauri.  Al Nagler actually gave me my first view of Omega Centauri in a TV 102.  Omega Cen through a big dob is something to behold.  It is truly unbelievable.  Other objects I viewed through the courtesy of many different scopes and their owners were: 

NGC 3268 and 3271- a great pair of galaxies in the same field of view, 

Comet McNaught-Hartley, a diffuse glow with no real bright central head, 

Centaurus A, spectacular in the large dobs, dark lane with subtle structure very obvious, 

Galactic Wanderer - furthest globular cluster in the Milky Way located in Lynx, 

Eta Carina, I enjoyed the Fujinon 16x70 views of this the most, 

Jewel Box,  small but colorful cluster, 

Gum 17, a nebulosity patch that is part of the Vela Supernova remnant.  I tried to photograph this object- captured the nebulosity, focus is good, but field rotation with 90 minute exposure.

The seeing is so good, my TV 85 easily split the 1.4 arc second double of Eta Orionis.

The Mounts:

I caught my first glimpse of the Yang GT-One mount. It looked a little different from the website pictures. The controls were not on the side of the mount head. I never had a chance to check out the mount performance. I also had a chance to see the MI-250 mount with a C-14 riding on top. A new high-capacity mount was being demonstrated at the vendor table. The mount is made by Wide Sky Optics and is the Millennium Mount. I believe Pocono will be a retailer in the US for the mount. Website is < >   There were many AP mounts.  Some of the older 800 and 1200.  A few GTOs.   I saw at least one Takahashi EM200. 

The Presentations:

I saw 3 terrific presentations at WSP. 

R. Scott Ireland presented a digitized self running program that featured astroimages from his collection as well as some from Herm Perez.  The presentation was accompanied by two symphonic selections that set the mood perfectly.  This presentation was so popular that he gave an encore performance.

I was told Donald Parker presentations were not to be missed.  Unfortunately, his presentation came on the day after an all-night photo session.  I was wiped out.   I woke up about 12:30 and his presentation was at 1:00 p.m.  I showered and decided that eating was my next priority and I would just have to miss the presentation.   I get my lunch, sit down, and what is on the TV- Donald Parker's presentation is being transmitted live and direct to the lunch room.  There was only one other person in the lunch room with me.  It was air conditioned, not crowded, I was eating and watching Donald's talk.  I really lucked out on this one.  Yes, Donald's presentations are not to be missed.  His presentation was on Mars.  He presented CCD images of Mars and its unique features and instructed as to how to note these features during visual observations.  

Peter Ceravolo presented a personal account of his imaging quest to put together an animated sequence of comet Hyakutake.  His dedication to this imaging quest was quite remarkable and worth every moment.

Our Camp:


This was our home for 5 days.  George Whitney prepares for CCD imaging of the planets.

In our camp, we had 2 x 10" Meade LX200’s, a Tak FS78, a Ceravolo 6" Mak-Newt, a Tak Sky 90, 2 x AP 130EDT’s, 16x70 Fuji's, 7x50 Fuji's, and one TV 85. We also had a Losmandy G-11 Gemini mount, a GM8, an LX200 on Milburn wedge, a Telepod mount, and an AP 600 QMD mount. 


Photo courtesy of Paul Titus-Thanks Paul.  It is nice since I double exposed my roll of film:-)

This was my first outing with the Kendrick tent.  I positioned the tent as a wind block against the prevailing winds and it served quite nicely in blocking the winds.   The tent withstood the 20+mph winds, a fairly heavy rain, and plenty of sun.   I am very pleased with the functionality of the Kendrick tent.

Al comes to visit:

Al Nagler returned to our camp on Thursday night. He had the new 9mm Nagler and wanted to give it a try on my TV85. We put it in the scope and checked out Jupiter. Of course, I have never seen Jupiter like this before. The steady skies of West Summerland Key were quite remarkable.

The view through the 9mm Nagler was quite comfortable. The 9mm had very nice eye relief with no blackout spot and a very large field of view. It was as if the image was just sitting there on the front of the glass.

Here is what Markus Ludes posted to the SAA newsgroup regarding the new 9mm Nagler views on my TV85.

From: "Markus Ludes" <>

Newsgroups: sci.astro.amateur
Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2001 11:00 AM
Subject: Re: Mystery Nagler
Some words about the new 9 mm Nagler from first observing sessions with
uncle Al together at WSP.
The new 9 mm looks like an 19 mm Panoptik in outer designing and sizes,
extremly compact special designed to be more easy used on Binoviewers.At
Daytime you find again the blue fringe at the edge of fieldstop (as mot
newstyled TV show up), at nightime it was not a issue.
One night at WSP 2001, Al invited me to take a look through his Combo TV 85
and new 9 mm Nagler. It was impressive, the stars have been pinpoint to the
edge , the look in view have been extremly comfortable. Same eyepiece used
in an Sky 90 showed an nearly not usuable image, off-axis aberrations like
in an fast Dob , which confirms that the TV 85 is superior in fieldflattnes
against the Sky 90.
I was intersted to see how this new 9 mm baby compares against my old 9 mm
(without rubber) and I was wondering to see that the new 9 mm show up an
better fieldcorrection than my lovely old 9 mm, which showed not that
perfect edge correction.
Of course we asked Al about the price , Al answered it is not fixed, but
expected to be around 4 40~ $ 50 more expensive than the present modell
clear skies

Al wanted to compare the TV 85 with the nearby Sky 90. We had an assortment of eyepieces and began the comparison on Jupiter. The two scopes were very comparable on Jupiter. Another comparison evolved between the 2.8-mm Takahashi ortho and the 3mm Radian. I believe most observers agreed that the 3mm Radian outperformed the Takahashi on Jupiter in both the TV85 and the Takahashi Sky 90. The 2.8mm was brought to the camp by Markus Ludes. He and Al had a lively discussion on the performance of the eyepieces. I was too busy tending to astro-photography business to catch all of the details.

Al then went to Sirius for the star test. The diffraction ring pattern was as stable as could be hoped for. Al remarked that it was very difficult for him to duplicate the diffraction images at WSP in his testing facility. He was very impressed with the "seeing" conditions that night. The color in the TV85 may have been slightly less than in the Sky 90. Both the TV85 and the Sky 90 had been returned for pinched optics. All in all the TV 85 performed very well and Al was very happy with the performance. 

I'm Hooked:

Looking at M42 in shorts in February is awesome.  I am hooked on the WSP.  My advice is to have some preparation for blocking the wind.  If you do, you will dramatically extend your viewing/photography time.  The skies due south are quite nice.  My astrophotos of southern objects did not come close to reaching the sky fog limit with E200 pushed two stops shooting at F/8 for 90 minutes.  The "seeing" conditions were unlike any I have ever seen before.  If you want to know how your scope is performing, go to WSP.  It is a must for serious planetary observers.  The catering service was very dependable and the food quality was very good.  We set up camp right on the waterfront.  Many setup nearer to the back of the camp.  I believe this is to reduce exposure to the wind.  I did find the car headlights to be very distracting when I visited observers on the back side of the camp which is right next to highway 1.  The presentations were outstanding.  The WSP is a great star party and the organizers have much to be proud of.  I hope to return in 2002 with my observing buddy and his 20" Obsession:-)