S T A R * P O I N T S

31 December, 2000
3rd Millennium Star Party
at the
United States Naval Observatory
Washington, DC

The observatory had a public program for the first 3,000 persons to enter including cannon fire, a timeball drop, observing with the historic 12 inch and 26 inch Clark refractors, and fireworks.

The early evening was spent showing the starry sights to VIP visitors attending tours and a dinner at the observatory. The observatory served hot food for volunteers in the "Stargazer Cafe."

To help with the overflow crowd and to take the pressure off the observatory instruments I hauled a 0.5 meter (20 inch) Newtonian Dobsonian reflector telescope for public viewing.

All photographs are by the author.

[SCT close up]

With hundreds of persons expected to ascend the ladder of the 0.5 meter a solution had to be found for keeping the observed object in the field of view without requiring the operator to butt into line after each observer and climb the ladder in order to readjust the telescope for the next viewer.

A 4 inch f/12 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope was bolted to the left altitude bearing of the main instrument, as shown in the close up view, above. This permits the operator to guide the main telescope from a comfortable seated position when the SCT is fitted with a cross hair reticle eyepiece.

This configuration made a big difference in throughput in terms of the number of observers per unit time that were able to view with the main instrument.

[Dob and SCT sidekick]

Testing the sidekick configuration in the workshop at home prior to the star party.

[20 Dob and 26 Clark Dome]

The 0.5 meter Tectron Dobsonian telescope and its attached 4 inch SCT is visible in the foreground in front of the dome of the historic 26 inch Clark refractor which was used to discover the only two known moons of the planet Mars in 1877.

[USNO Crowd]

Several members of the general public pause to ask questions and inspect the telescope after descending the 8' ladder. The telescope was used to provide views of the planets Jupiter and Saturn to hundreds of star party guests.

[Fireworks 1 of 2]

A cannon shot and time ball drop signaled the end of the 2nd millennium, followed by a fireworks display.

[Fireworks 2 of 2]

Another view of the fireworks in which the dome of the 12 inch refractor is visible at lower right.

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