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Mooning

Things To Do

Dave North


 

... The full Moon can be a great time to travel, if you're interested in things other than astronomy.

 

The main telescope field at this year's RTMC, with its notable features, direct sun and dust. Photo by the author.

One of the many vendors at the 2002 RTMC Astronomy Expo. Photo by the author.

 

I suppose a dedicated Loonie shouldn't admit to such a thing, but sometimes the full Moon just isn't all that interesting.

Sure, you can do the "ray tracing" thang, and sometimes you're picking up "good librations," but even so such observations rarely take more than a half hour or so. What to do?

This is a problem also faced by the Terminally Lunaphobic crowd (deepsky weasels), but we needn't concern ourselves about their constant whining. I'm convinced the first thing you have to do in order to be a proficient deepsky observer is learn to complain about every little thing, then use it as an excuse to stand around and gossip.

But the full Moon can be a great time to travel, if you're also interested in things other than astronomy, but who around here is? And what kind of astronomy trip can you make at the full Moon?

This May offered an interesting opportunity: RTMC. And I'm sure many SJAA members are curious about it, since it takes place on one of the worst travel weekends of the year, and is a long way to go.

At one time in the hazy past (a couple of years ago) RTMC stood for Riverside Telescope Makers Conference. It takes place at Camp Oakes, which is just above Big Bear Lake, which is nowhere near Riverside.

I think the idea originally involved amateur builders showing off their craft, but increasingly this is less in evidence, but boatloads of professional builders show up - so the Telescope Makers part certainly works.

And it is a Conference.

But now it's called something else, I think RTMC Astronomy Expo - and the RTMC doesn't actually stand for anything officially any more. And it's incorporated or something. And it costs a little more than it used to. Otherwise, same old thing.

You might think the major reason to go is getting a look at all the cool new telescopes various manufacturers are offering, and to see what amateurs are up to these days. And, to some extent, you'd be right.

But the real point of going to RTMC is to hang out with all the other folks from all over the country who attend: it's a Gathering Of The Clans, and a great opportunity to visit with many of the wonderful folks who make up our hobby.

Oh, there were a few commercial innovations to check out this year. One side of the telescope field seemed literally littered with Coronado solar filters, and they are a great product.

My personal favorite for this year was the new Rigel Skylight/Starlight. I'm sure you've seen these flashlights in their original incarnation. The new version is completely redesigned, with a Great Big Knob for adjusting brightness, very easily used with gloves on. Great stuff! It's also water-resistant, which is certainly useful in heavy dew or the middle of a lake (such as the Big Bear Lake solar observatory).

There were probably some things I missed, but it seemed like not that much had happened in the commercial world, and perhaps even less in the amateur world. Many great scopes from previous RTMCs were there, but not much that was both new and remarkable. At the height of the event on Saturday afternoon, the telescope field where one usually sees new amateur work was nearly empty, and there were also significant gaps in the line of vendor booths.

Still, I'm told attendance was about normal, and there were about the usual number of entries in the telescope maker's competition.

It may just be that they were spread out all over the place rather than in "the field," as some folks claim.

I can easily understand, however, why someone would avoid setting up there (or, for that matter, bringing any nice optics to RTMC).

The dust.

There are three things you'll probably remember about RTMC if you ever go there: all the great people, the uncomfortable direct sun, and the dust. Definitely the dust.

The entire area is covered wth a fine grit, and tends to have winds anywhere from a gentle zephyr (with occasional dust devils) to gale-force blows that topple scopes. And those winds carry some of the finest abrasives known to man.

It gets everywhere. In your eyes, ears, nose and throat. And in your scope, if you take one - we never do anymore (or leave it in the car).

So that's basically what RTMC is all about. Give 'em your 20 bucks and hang out in a windy (often hot) dustbowl.

Or, more accurately, get in touch with some of the nicest - and most interesting - folks in the world.

It's the latter that brings us back, year after year.

ps: The devoted Loonie also has a problem of what to do at new Moon. In June, that was no problem. Just watch the eclipse!

Informally, hundreds of folks showed up at Houge Park, and it was great fun. Especially since the day was hot, and the eclipse gave us some cooling relief for a while.

Plus, it was a rare opportunity to look at the Dark Side Of The Moon.

Fun few weeks there!

 


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