In Memory of Astronomer Robert L. Gent 1947-2019
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    Blog - Explore Scientific — Winter Star Party

    Winter Star Party 2018 - Boy was it wet here...

    We are at the Winter Star Party in Chiefland Florida, and it was beautifully clear last night, much to the delight of the astronomers who had faced clouds for a few nights. But when we arrived this morning we found our telescopes and eyepieces were very wet with dew.

    Generally, this is of a little concern for telescopes. You just leave the lens caps off and let the dew evaporate off the lenses over the course of the day. But with most eyepieces, a lot of water on them runs the risk of some moisture seeping between the elements and getting trapped. Later this problem shows up as the optics fog up from the inside. But this is not the case with Explore Scientific waterproof eyepieces.

    Available in 62, 68, 82, 92, 100, and 120 degree apparent field designs. They are O-ring sealed and purged with an inert gas. To make sure they are indeed waterproof they are submerged in one meter of water for 30 minutes. They will never fog up between the lenses and they can be cleaned under running water. In addition these eyepieces are backed upon registration with our forever, no-fault, transferable warranty!

    Learn more:

    #explorescientific #eyepiece #winterstarparty #wsp2018 #astronomy #telescope

    Winter Star Party 2017

    It all started on Thursday, Feb 16. Our warehouse and QC guys loaded up the tiny trailer (not the 1968 Airstream as we'd hoped) with our necessary star party equipment and support gear. Scott and I loaded our stuff and we began our trek toward the Florida Keys. It took us some 28 hours of drive time and 3 overnights on the way. 

    We arrived on Sunday, Feb 19 around 2pm and checked in to our hotel on Marathon Key. Shortly after, we made our way to Camp Wesumkee on West Summerland Key to join the other vendors and star party staff to set up in anticipation of the 33rd Winter Star party crowd. 

    Nothing much happens on setup day except the arduous task of making our area look good and presentable. We set up maybe 10 scopes and mounts along with the pop up tent and tables for our eyepieces and other accessories. It took us most of the afternoon. 

    The star party actually opens at noon on Monday, Feb 20. Scott and I had breakfast and headed to the site around 10:30. We scrambled to get our space looking good as the campers and motor homes flooded in. Most of the attendees rush to their favorite spot or just grab the best spot they can find and they do their setup routine as well. It was a windy day and we expected after dark to be the same way. We got in a little viewing time, but fought clouds and wind so we quite early the first night. 

    Tuesday was windy and cloudy but we met lots of our old friends and spent all day showing off our telescopes and mounts and eyepieces. That night, we expected clouds so we took the evening off and headed to Key West for some dinner and cocktails. As luck would have it, it cleared - somewhat. We were told the next morning that it was clear but the seeing wasn't so great.

    Wednesday brought a deluge of rain and strong winds. Winds as strong as 40 mph. We stayed at the hotel until around 2pm when Scott had to go to the Key West airport to head to China. He had to be there a few days later to join in celebrating the 20th Anniversary of JOC - our factories. That evening cleared but the seeing was crappy and we dodged clouds until after midnight. 

    Thursday was not much different than the first few days and we dodged clouds once again until midnight. 

    Most of Friday was spent packing all but a few scopes and eyepieces for travel. We needed to head back home on Saturday as soon as we could get off the site. Friday was the best night I've seen at this event in a few years. Heck, 2 years ago, we were there for 6 nights and didn't get one second of viewing. The weather in Feb is so unpredictable, but I can't think of a better place to be in Feb. As night fell, the sky was magnificent. We had a ton of fun with lots of people coming to check out our toys. We viewed maybe 30 or more awesome objects through our 152mm ED APO and our 16" DOB. Gary Parkerson of Astronomy Technology Magazine and several of his "newbie" friends stopped by for more than an hour looking at great objects through the large DOB. They were very impressed. I stayed until after 2am and really didn't want to leave but Saturday would be a long day so I headed back to the hotel. 

    I arrived at the site at 8:30am and finished tearing down the rest of the scopes and packed the trailer for the long drive home. I was off the site by about 10:30am which gave me a chance to shower before checking out of the hotel. I was on the road by 11:15am. Remember, Scott left the star party on Wednesday afternoon so I was by myself for the teardown and drive back. I was only going to Atlanta but it's about 815 miles. I made it to Valdosta GA around 11:30pm. Sunday morning I headed back out about 8:00am and arrived in Atlanta around 1:30pm. Exhausted and road weary, I crashed for a few hours.

    All-in-all, this was another successful event for us. We saw many of our old friends and made a bunch of new ones. We showed off our products and gave people a change to look through our scopes and eyepieces. That isn't always available to the public unless you know someone who has a scope or eyepiece you can use or look through. We fully believe our attendance at star parties is the correct form of marketing and connecting with our customers. We look forward to seeing you at a star party in the future. 

    Here's a short time-lapse I shot on Friday night. It's about 300 images shot over about 4 hours using a Canon 70D and a Tamron 10-24 f/3.5 lens at ISO 2500 for 25 seconds each exposure with a 5 second delay. It's put together using MPEG Streamclip software and converted to an mp4 file.