Michael Hotka's
Weekend Under the Stars 2011

Here are pictures of my trip to the 2011 Weekend Under the Stars. I was ready to head to Fox Park, Wyoming about 10 AM on July 28, 2011. Here is my car loaded for 2 days and nights of observing.


Arrived at WUTS (Weekend Under The Stars) and Fox Park Thursday afternoon, July 28, 2011. Got to pick out my usual observing spot for it was not too crowded yet.

This was the first light, under dark skies, for my newly redesigned 12.5" f/8 telescope, on a dob mount, with SkyCommander digital setting circles and a ServoCat, Jr computer control system.

            Couldn't Get Enough Pictures                                             Thursday Afternoon

As it got dark Thursday night, I realized there was something wrong with my SkyCommander. It was not working as I have seen SkyCommanders work on other's scopes. Fiddling around with it a few minutes, I decided to find objects the old fashion way, star hop. So that is what I did for the rest of the night, almost. My Jerry Wilkinson optics were top notch. Giving pin point star images. I was very pleased. Jerry's quality was present in my new mirror.

Thursday night was looking bad at sunset. Clouds were everywhere and the forecast was not favorable. Yet, by 10 PM, the sky was clear and the seeing and transparency was good.

About 2 AM Friday morning, Mike Prochoda stopped by for a view thru my new scope. I explained about my SkyCommander behaving differently and he knew the correct power on sequence to get into the basic setup mode for the device. We changed the mode to a DOB telescope and changed the encoder resolution to 10000. Did a 2 star alignment and the display NOW looked like what I expected. We used the SkyCommander to find 3 objects in succession and they all were dead in the 132x eyepiece's field of view. Thank you Mike...

I looked at old favorites, the super novae in M51 and Dark Nebula all evening. Packed it in about 3 AM after getting a couple of views through Gary's 30 Inch scope.

                     Friday Afternoon                                               Friday Night was a Great Night

Friday night, I was set to go. The SkyCommander was working. I then tested to see if the ServoCat was tracking and once I did a GOTO to an object, the tracking was working perfectly. I spent the rest of the night, from about 10PM to 2:30 AM, using the SkyCommander to find objects and the ALL were in the eyepiece. About midnight, I started using the GOTO button on my ServoCat. You lock in an object on the SkyCommander and push the GOTO button and the telescope automatically slewed to that object. I was laughing giddyly and someone near me asked why. I said that this telescope was so cool!!!

I used the GOTO feature the rest of the night. I have now left the comforts of star hopping and joined the dark side of automated GOTO object finding. I will not disregard my star hopping skills, for I do want to make sure the galaxy I dialed in and went to is the correct one I was wanting to observe.

The accuracy of the telescope construction was validated Friday night into Saturday morning, by finding and putting one object after another into the eyepiece's field of view. This proves that the orthagonality of both axis of my new scope is dead on. Something I strived for in construction, but was unsure I had achieved until this night.

         Group Admiring My New Telescope                          Dennis Webb and Cousin Robert Grover

                            Cliff Simpson                                         Mike Roos and his 16 Inch Telescope

          My Setup, Ready for Friday Night                         Mike Prochoda's and Bernie Poskus's Scopes

         Stan Jarrett's Picture of My Campsite

Friday night was incredible. The sky was clear overhead at sunset with some clouds lingering along the southeastern horizon. The temperature hovered around 32 degrees after midnight. I looked at Dark Nebulas and other old favorites all night. Packed it in about 2:30 AM after getting more views through Gary's scope.

I had a great WUTS, hanging out with all my old astro buddies and the new ones I met. Seeing Dark Sky Marines from the old days, remembering and laughing at all the antics we used to do. Get a recharge of photons (or lack of, for I looked at a lot of dark nebulaes) that will energize my observing for the rest of the year.

I had this dream that started 40 yrs ago with the first version of this scope. My finished telescope works better than I ever dreamed it would. I would have never thought I could own a telescope with all this capability and you can take it to the field. I am very pleased with its performance and will continue looking up with it.

So, you can say, "Mike is finished with his scope. There is nothing more he can do to improve its performance". If you said that, you would be wrong. Everyone that stopped by had great suggestions as to how to improve this current design. Thank you all for your comments. I started implementing the best suggestions and hope to have them complete by the next new moon cycle. The work (play) never stops.

Vern Raben's Pictures

Robert Grover's Pictures

Gary Garzone's Pictures


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