Last year was the primary time in 66 years that the Springfield Telescope Makers didn’t maintain their annual Stellafane Convention. Stellafane is one in every of my favourite weekends of the year, so you possibly can think about my disappointment when the 2020 conference canceled, even when, at that time, all of us anticipated it. And I’m certain a lot of you felt the identical way. By the time I arrived on the high of Breezy Hill, I used to be determined for that crisp Vermont mountain air.
Since its founding, Stellafane has change into one of many longest-running and grandest star events in North America and has earned a particular place within the hearts of its attendees and the beginner astronomy group. The Springfield Telescope Makers started when 15 males and one lady signed up for a category about mirror grinding with Russel W. Porter. The first official Stellafane Convention was held on July 3 and 4, 1926, and could be held yearly till the beginning of World War II, when the folks of Springfield needed to dedicate all of their time to working within the city’s factories to help within the battle effort. The conference was reinitiated on August 3, 1946, however a second lapse occurred after the loss of life of Russell W. Porter in 1949, and it lasted till 1953. Thankfully, this most up-to-date lapse didn’t final almost so long as the primary two.
Many repeat attendees who arrived across the similar time I did Thursday night voiced their pleasure about being again at Stellafane. The pandemic nonetheless had some noticeable results: Many Stellafane regulars and potential newcomers stayed at residence, and indicators held on the buildings and observatories requiring attendees to put on masks whereas inside. None of the lectures have been held within the smaller buildings, and the actions for kids and youngsters have been each held outdoors.
Friday morning, I headed out to look at the Springfield Telescope Makers mirror-grinding workshops and some of the lectures in Flanders Pavilion. With the Sun bearing down, I ventured to the highest of the hill for the Solar Observing Hour. Both the Cook Spectrohelioscope and the Porter Turret Telescope displayed sensible views of the Sun. Although there weren’t any sunspots, we did see a vivid solar prominence by means of the Spectrohelioscope.
Both Friday and Thursday nights have been spectacularly clear. Observers known as out the designations and areas of the objects on the Observing Olympics listing and oohed at passing Perseid meteors. The sounds echoed by means of the evening as I chased down globular clusters in Sagittarius.
Saturday morning was cool, however by noon it was even hotter than the day earlier than. I slogged my way up the still-muddy roads to the Swap Tables, which have been as typical stuffed with books, telescopes, and equipment. I grabbed a e book and a brand new eyepiece whereas I used to be there.
Then, it was off to the annual telescope-making competition. The occasion attracted 31 entries this year, together with 4 first-time telescope makers. First-timer Gavin Buckowski tied for first place within the small Newtonian optical competitors together with his 6-inch f/8 Dobsonian, and Steven Bodine took residence the gold for craftsmanship together with his first scope, an 8-inch f/5.4 Dobsonian. Other noteworthy entries have been Keith Warner’s 3D-printed eyepiece turret and filter wheel and Alan Sliski’s restoration of a 4-inch f/15 refractor from the Nineteen Thirties. The Master Class additionally had a number of spectacular entrees.
Unfortunately, fog and clouds set in simply because the night talks started and blocked all however the brightest stars that evening. During the night talks, Kris Larsen offered the annual Shadowgram speak on the consequences that the pandemic had on beginner astronomy. She took a have a look at all of the methods astronomy golf equipment and organizations rose to the event and continued their outreach efforts whereas members have been caught at residence. She additionally talked concerning the wave of latest amateurs which have joined golf equipment over the previous year. Most importantly, she described a number of methods golf equipment can proceed encouraging these new members.
Larsen’s options included using social media and apps, updating outdated newsletters and web sites, altering the format of conferences to make them extra entertaining, and directing instruction in the direction of folks thinking about smaller, extra fashionable scopes.
Stella Kafka, director and CEO of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), gave the keynote presentation on the AAVSO and the dimming of Betelgeuse on the finish of 2019 (see “The Great Dimming of Betelgeuse” by Tom Calderwood within the March 2021 subject). She used photos from the Hubble Space Telescope and lightweight curves created with information from 115 AAVSO members to clarify that though we all know what triggered this occasion, we nonetheless don’t know if it’s a prelude to the star going supernova.
Every year, I discover myself wishing Stellafane may final just a bit bit longer. But with one other weekend on Breezy Hill come and gone too rapidly, I, together with many different starry-eyed attendees, reluctantly packed up and headed residence. I can’t wait to see everybody there once more subsequent year, and should you occur to identify me or every other S&T editors roaming the grounds, be happy to say hello.