One of my favorite nights at RMSS was when there were about eight of us
standing around my scope, thinking of great objects to hunt. One object
was bagging all five of Stephan's Quintet, another was getting a dozen galaxies
in one eyepiece. It amazes me how much experience accumulates at RMSS and how
much I can learn in just a few nights. It was a perfect night,
with great skies, pleasant temperatures and good friends.
I received my Solarmax 60 h-alpha filter from Coronado just a few days before RMSS 2002. We set it
up on the TV85 with the binoviewer every morning and were treated to spectacular views of a huge
prominence which looked for all the world like a Praying Mantis. It lasted for a couple of days
and we had lines of people taking a look all day long. What a debut for the solar filter!
Dizzyness at Star Stare
At a recent RMSS, I was observing with a friend on his 22" Dob. I climbed up
the ladder and was looking in the eyepiece. As I stood back up and was about
to start down the ladder, I looked down. Since it was so dark, all I could
really see were the stars reflecting up from his 22" mirror, and it felt like I
was floating in space for a minute and was completely disoriented. Took me a
few minutes to pry my fingers from the ladder to come back down as I'd never
experienced a sense of vertigo like that before.
Just Passing By
My first year at RMSS, I was amazed at how clear and dark the skies
were. As soon as the stars would clear the horizon line, they would
become visible. There were so many stars and it was difficult to find the most
familiar constellations. Comparing views between my scope and other friend's
scopes is one of my favorite pastimes, while sharing eyepieces and learning
about new equipment. Occasionally I would find someone wandering around and
I really enjoy sharing views with all passers by.
A few years ago, a guy from Spokane came out to RMSS with "Hercules" which was a
42" Dob. One night I was standing in line to go up the 12' ladder and a club
members wife was behind me. Hercules was aimed at m51 (the whirlpool galaxy).
I went up and was absolutely blown away by what I saw. Looked like a picture
you see in magazines. My friends wife went up, then came back down. I asked
her what she thought. Her comment was something like, "was it that fuzzy thing
that had arms?" I exclaimed, "YES! It had obvious arms! Thats what made it so
"I started attending RMSS in 2002 when my family decided to relocate to the Colorado Springs area. I've been to quite a few
star parties and will have to say this is by far the best star party I have ever been to, year after year! The dark skies, large observing area, friendly people and outdoor scenery are just a
few of the many highlights of this event. One of my friends had a metal detector and the kids and I went "treasure hunting". We actually found a whole bunch of neat stuff!
My kids really enjoy the event and always ask when we're going back. Hat's off to a job well done!"
A Regular at Rocky Mountain Star Stare: Mr. Fifteen Hundred Power
My first Rocky Mountain Star Stare, and for that matter, the first star party I had ever attended, was
the one held in 1995. This was also the first opportunity I had to try astrophotography from dark skies,
so I wasted little time at nightfall the first evening. I had completed polar alignment and started taking
piggyback and prime-focus images as quickly as I could, pausing only a few minutes at a time to take in
Somewhere between 1:30 AM and 2:00 AM, a figure approached while I struggled to keep the guide star
centered for what would be the last image of the evening. A friendly voice from the darkness said,
"Hey, would you like to come over and see the Ring at 1,500 power?" Intent on my guide star but
interested in the invitation, I responded "Yes, I'll be over in a minute or two -- thanks!"
As the figure walked back towards his equipment, I started to play the short conversation over in
my mind. At this point, I began to realize how much fatigue I was suffering from:
He said to come over and look at the Ring -- yes, that sounds OK.
But he said it was at *fifteen* *hundred* power!
No, no, no... there's an *extra* digit in that number!
He meant 150 power, right?
He *had* to have!
I finished my exposure with this problem playing in my head and made my way to the telescope to which the figure had returned. I was promptly invited to gaze into the eyepiece and observe the Ring nebula. Sure enough, it was presented at 1,500 power, nearly filling the field of view in the eyepiece! The image was soft but still showed the circular nature of the object and the faint illumination of the central region. It was one of those things you did and then thought to yourself that you would one day tell your grandchildren of this accomplishment.
My host was Ken Florentino, and the image was displayed via his 13.1"
truss tube Dob and hand-made tracking platform. Along with a small group of "victims" he had invited,
we spent some time looking at several objects using magnifications ranging from 500 to 1,500 power.
This experience left such an impression on me that I found myself *forced* to give Ken the nickname,
"Mr. Fifteen Hundred Power".
I also invented a new magnification scale based on his affinity for extremes of magnification.
In this new scale, magnification is expressed in terms of a new unit called a Ken, which can be written
as the letter K. One Ken is equivalent to 1,000 power. So, I had viewed the Ring at 1.5 Ken,
or 1.5 K, that evening.
Mr. Fifteen Hundred Power appears at most Star Stare events. Seek him out for some high powered
observing, enjoy the views, and please take a moment to tease him about his magnification scale.
Just How Dark are the Skies at RMSS?
Several years ago I met a couple visiting the area for the purpose of attending Rocky Mountain Star
Stare. They had interesting stories to tell. You see, they were independently wealthy and spent much
of their time traveling from place to place in the country attending star parties. They mentioned a
list of more than a dozen locations, and those were just their favorites. They said RMSS was now on
that list as this site was darker and more transparent than all but one they had attended. The darkest
skies they had seen were nearby the radio telescope facility known as the Very Large Array in New
Mexico. It's nice to know I need not travel that far to enjoy some of the darkest skies in the country.