Southern California Desert Video Astronomers

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Strawberry Moon Event



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The Strawberry Moon Star Party, June 3 - 4, 2011

The Full moon for June is called the Strawberry Moon.  A name that brings thoughts of a calm and pleasant time. But it had a few surprises as it brought on some of the strangest weather, the likes of which have never been seen in these parts, before.

The Cigar Galaxy & M51 Whirlpool Galaxy

Well below our normal trends, it was unusually cool and breezy. Typically, we are well into the summer heat zone, by now. Thursday evening was windy with thin, high clouds and Friday night brought more of the same. Thankfully, a little less wind helped our eager visitors get in a taste of the star gazing they came for.  By Saturday night, the expected decline in conditions flipped upside down and turned into the best night of our event!

Mark Bahu checking out the weather sites while waiting for dark

 Mark and Mike still short on gear!



 Thursday was an early entry day for the astronomers. Arriving in the late afternoon, they wasted no time unloading their gear. Soon, a small technical control center stood ready to take on the night sky.  Looking a lot like giant booth at an astronomy expo, computers and telescopes and sun canopies covered the viewing area.

Greg W. tuning 'er up!

Ben Brown Appears to be Praying for Clear Skies

Greg W.  worked with Ben as they set up their camp.  Carpet went down, electricity wired in, tables, computers, telescopes, and the hit of their campsite, the cook stove! The smell of bacon would soon be in the morning air!  Mark and Mike arrived shortly afterwards and a repeat circus act took place as they raised the tent, so to speak, and a vacant spot became a miniature mission control.  It would not be long before we would be going live on the NSN!

Solar Scope set up for daytime viewing

Hoping for a great event, all of the guys were dying to get their connection to the “Night Skies Network” up and running.  Since that is the theme of the effort, we did not delay and by mid day Friday we had the Lunt 60 solar scope connected to Greg’s broadcasting channel.  He took the helm and began to share the images with viewers all around the world.  Greg  was very pleased with the success and said, “I live for this!” and we understand why…. It’s a lot of fun to be sharing live views of what we’re doing with those who enjoy the interests of this effort and Greg is a “Guru” amongst the enthusiasts.

Tom & Greg W. aka "Mr. NSN"   Chatting it up with astronomers from around the world on the
Night Skies Network



By Saturday night, things gelled into our best night, yet. Leonard had been tirelessly meeting the technical challenges of the demand for success. Besides having his “astrocamp” fully operational with air conditioning and touch screen videotelescope control center, he was blazing along, brilliantly filling the slot of “problem solver” with technical genius.

Leonard Holmberg aka Telescope operator No. 2

Rick Heistand & Greg Wilhite are Happy Astro Campers

Rick assisted with his expertise on areas of his specialization, sidereal control system programming and Mallincam connectivity to large Dobsonians. He had his wide field refractor tracking the sky and with Leonard‘s CPC11, they provided the backbone of the Saturday night show.  Greg and Ben added some brilliant images to put on our screens and, in all, we showed the crowd over twenty, wonderful, deep sky objects.



Rick aka "Telescope operator No. 1"

The  Crowd enjoys one of Huell Hower's  PBS California's Gold shows ,
"A Journey to Mt Wilson"

The public part of our event was Saturday night.  Starting at dusk, we had nice group of familiar friends arrive.  Driving the projection gear to full ahead, the show kicked off with a video presentation from Huell Howser’s PBS show, “California’s Gold”. The episode was “A Journey to Mount Wilson”.  A theme that kept sync with the night’s agenda.  The DVD was a gift from Huell to us and it was nice to share what he called “his favorite episode” with everyone.



The Stellar event of the evening was to check out the Super Nova within M51

 Oblique Spiral  Galaxy & M51

Oblique Spiral Galaxy

Within an hour, the crowd grew to more than fifty attendees and we started to put up the beginnings of our regular Mallincam images we are known to present. Some hang-around clouds hampered early attempts to reach perfection with our craft, but the sky soon gelled into near crystal clarity.  With a deep breath, our crossed fingers relaxed as our hopes came through.  Time passed quickly at that point, and the evening seemed to zoom by. The spectators slimmed to a few late night owls and by midnight the familiar still desert air that we love, settled in.

 Globular Cluster and Oblique Spiral Galaxy

The Black Eye Galaxy

 M20 The Trifid  & the Eagle Nebula M16





By dawn on Sunday morning, some sleepy diehard’s looked around and realized we were the only ones still hanging on.  At last, we checked out the last few visible objects. Greg made one final capture of the Helix Nebula, dawn broke, and it was over.  There were sighs of relief as words of contentment came from our guests, and the stressful tension that comes from hopeful expectations faded into the past.  It wasn’t long and we awoke to the familiar smell of bacon cooking and after Ben served breakfast the campsites slowly came down.  Our happy visitors shared their blessings of having had a great time with us, and they were on their way home.

M27  Dumbbell Nebula

A Pair of Dumbells

We want to thank Mark Bahu, Mike Chibnik, Ben Brown, and Greg Wilhite for their friendship and camaraderie. Our event was one of our best because of the spirit they bring to this hobby and we urge them to join in with us, again, soon!

 Leonard captured this wonderful image of M52
The Bubble Nebula

Last image before daybreak is Greg W's.  An NSN screen capture of the 
 Helix Nebula


Special thanks goes to our own “Team X” for the indispensable support they provide. Deb for being sure that everyone gets nutrition and hydration with that slice of humor that brightens our events and to Valeree for filling the unforeseen gaps in our presentations with the technical controls and both for the photography that captures the moments of our memories.  SCDVA could not exist without you!

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