Stellafane: A Weekend on Breezy Hill

Senior Contributing Editor Roger Sinnott discusses Bert Willard's off-axis Newtonian reflector.
Dennis di Cicco

The Springfield Telescope Makers held the 82nd annual Stellafane Convention this past weekend, with several hundred amateurs gathering on Breezy Hill in Springfield, Vermont, for a weekend of presentations, telescope making, and of course, deep-sky observing. And while the weather wasn't stellar all weekend, Thursday night treated attendees to a crystal-clear evening of excellent transparency.

This year's convention, dedicated to Allen Tinker, was held a month earlier than usual to accommodate those headed west and south to witness the total solar eclipse next month. As expected, there were fewer attendees than in recent years, with one attendee (Chris Stewart) journeying from South Africa to share several of his innovative mounts and accessories in the telescope making competition. Chris received three awards for his outstanding work.

Judges examine David Kelly's exquisite 12.5-inch Dobsonian.
Sean Walker

Telescope making is primarily what Stellafane is all about, and the annual telescope-making competition drew 35 candidates, including five in the "Master Class." Some noteworthy examples were the gorgeous 12-inch aluminum Dobsonian by master optician Dave Kelly and Chris Stewart's Tri-rod sector drive that can achieve just 3 arcseconds of periodic error using off-the-shelf parts.

Friday evening featured an optional lobster dinner — which I hear was quite good. The evening was partly cloudy, though some good observing was had through large gaps in the clouds. The last holes closed up sometime around 1:30 a.m.

Saturday morning began with the ritual haggling at the swap tables for used gear (I made off with a 48-mm Lumicon minus-violet filter) and carried on into an overcast, though pleasantly cool, late-July afternoon. The evening amphitheater talks began with the big raffle of donated goods provided by Tele Vue Optics Al and David Nagler and books from Willmann-Bell, Inc.

Dan Smoody displays his wares at Saturday morning's swap tables.
Sean Walker

Longtime attendees who passed away during the year were remembered fondly, including collimation specialist and mechanic Howie Glatter of Howie Glatter's Collimators.

Kris Larsen delivered the Shadowgram at dusk, followed by the convention's keynote address provided by NASA's Nagin Cox, a systems engineer currently on the mission-operations team for the Mars Curiosity Rover to end the evening. Although Saturday night proved a wash, only a few drops of rain were noted, and friends departed in the morning. Another weekend on Breezy Hill has come and gone all too quickly. Here's to next year!

Dominic Fucile of Falmouth, Massachusetts, shows off his "Gilligan Island" telescope, complete with coconut counterweight.
Sean Walker

4 thoughts on “Stellafane: A Weekend on Breezy Hill

  1. Dave-MitskyDave-Mitsky

    Thursday night at Stellafane was very good indeed. A number of Kopernik Astronomical Society members and I completed the 2017 Stellafane Observing Olympics requirement of observing at least 15 objects on Larry Mitchell’s list. NGC 7129 in Cepheus was one of the more interesting DSOs.

    I had a look through Gilligan’s, oops, Dominic’s interesting little refractor on Saturday. It actually worked but with a just a bit of optical aberration.

    BTW, the Shadowgram talk preceded the keynote talk by Nagin Cox.

  2. Dave-MitskyDave-Mitsky

    Amateur telescope maker Ed Jones had two unusual entries that did very well in this year’s competition. Both were his own optical designs. One was a Jones-Herschelian that he calls a Chiefspiegler (Catadioptric Herschellian schiefspiegler), the other a Jones-Medial refractor.

    On Saturday afternoon, Larry Mitchell presented a very interesting and informative talk on the Hidden Gems of Stellafane, the objects featured in this year’s Stellafane Observing Olympics.

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