This year, again, the Riverside Telescope Makers Conference
was held at Idyllwild because the smog is so bad at Riverside. The elevation at Idyllwild is between five
and six thousand feet, on the west slope of Mt. San Jacinto (over the mountains from Palm Springs). The
skies are quite blue and the weather quite fine. The conference
at Isomata, part of the U.S.C. campus in a creek valley, but when we go we set our telescopes up on the ridge at Inspiration
Point. From there, on a clear
night in spring, you can see Omega Centauri.
From there, on a clear day, you can see the dome of Palomar1 but Los Angeles, like an octopus far below, remains hidden
in its own smog.
In the past the Riverside Telescope Makers Conference has been held in April and the
Sidewalk Astronomers have taken it in on our spring tour. We have attended every
Riverside Conference except the first one, six years ago, which took place while we were just being born. This year
we couldn't arrange to catch it on a spring tour
(near Easter) because
it was scheduled for late May; so we hadn't planned to go. Then, quite unexpectedly, John was asked to speak at the Conference,
and Pat Henry
volunteered to take us down in his van; so we went. We
took Bruce Sams' 18 incher and Pat bore the expenses of the trip.
We spent the first night at the brand new Buttonwillow rest area. Except for the lights
you'd think they might have made it just for us. We had breakfast at Idyllwild
just before the conference began at 1:00 pm Saturday, May 25th. Anne had an infected finger.
We announced our presence, met many old friends,
attended the meetings that commenced the conference, met many new friends, missed many old ones, received an assignment
to talk the next day at two, and made arrangements for heating the pitch for pouring
a polishing lap. Late in the afternoon, after looking over the telescopes set up
at the conference, we retired to the top of our hill, set up the telescope and dug in for the night.
John then walked down
the hill to fill the water bottles, fell into conversation with some Indian Guides and picked up an assignment to entertain
one or two hundred
screaming kids and parents from the Indian Guide encampment
with a talk on constellations at their campfire,followed by a look through the 18" telescope on the hill.
He didn't get back till long after dark and in the company of perhaps 125 pairs of
eyes. Many of them saw Saturn and the moon. A few stayed for Omega Centauri and
M 13. The smog had climbed the hill just after our arrival that afternoon and, in conjunction with the moonlight,
fairly well spoiled the seeing conditions in the
early evening except
for bright objects. On that first evening M13 was a much better show than Omega Centauri.
After the Indian Guides had retired we had
quite a number of astronomers to entertain. There was conspicuous disappointment voiced by the astronomers that we had not
the 24, but they said that they'd settle for an 18. Some suggested
that the 24 should be subsidized to get it there. Good! We entertained the astronomers and many others
till nearly three and then retired into the jaws of the waiting mosquitoes. The astronomers continued
on the telescope till dawn, seeing Jupiter and Venus.
By 5:30 the two of us who slept outside the van were up again to avoid further syphoning
off of our body fluids by the mosquitoes. We too saw Jupiter and Venus,
the telescope away from the sun and walked down to the conference area and back up the hill. A red line was showing on Anne's
ate, packed the telescope, except for the rocker, and drove down the hill. We heated pitch, poured the 12" lap in front
of everybody, showed the colliding galaxy
slides and the telescope making
slides, finished the talk to a full and appreciative house, got some advice and left in haste for the Idyllwild Fire Department
to the Hemet Hospital 35 miles away. By now the red line was
almost to Anne's elbow.
We got to the hospital after six, had some of Anne's body fluids replaced with some other stuff and drove back to
the Conference. There we reported ourselves alive and
possibly well and
hastily drove to the hill and set up for the second night.
The second night was clearer so that in spite of the moon Omega Centauri was a good
show. Several other telescopes were set up on the hill the second night, including
a 12 incher. That represented a great improvement over the first night when there was only the 18 and a short focus
8. The turbulence was fairly bad through the first
half of the second
night but later when the moon retired we had very presentable conditions, much like what we had last year, though this year
the cities below us
were not covered by fog.
There we were at last on the top of a mountain
again with a good sized telescope, with dark and quiet skies and with people to entertain. There were quite a few
enthusiastic local residents to enjoy the show and quite a few astronomers from the
conference. We saw many beautiful things, star clusters in Hercules and Saggitarius
the Veil, the Dumbell, the Swan, the Lagoon and the Trif id (some could see color in the Trif id). Sanford was there
and found us a supernova in a galaxy north of Bernice's
Hair. We saw
several galaxies M81 and 82 and NGC 4565 which, if you like, forms the hair clip for Bernices hair. 4565 was a good show,
easily the best I (John) have
ever seen it in an 18 incher.
We even saw the ink spot
in Saggitarius but that view, unfortunately, could not be compared to the view we had of it last year on that super quiet
night at Dante's
View through the 24 when the stars were incredibly small
and bright against that fabulous darkness. When will it ever happen that the public gets to see those fabulously
beautiful sights from observatories built for them under dark and peaceful skies?
When will it ever happen?
That morning we all slept in the van. When we got up Anne's arm was better and we left for home.
Anne's arm is now O.K.