by Jim Ster
Because I don't have much time with my new 22", I spent a lot of the night working to get my collimation perfect, but alas, I fell victim to that age old difficulty of trying to do something in the dark and ended up making matters worse. It wasn't until dawn started to rear its ugly head and shed a little light on the situation that I was able to actually get it dialed in. Even though the sun was coming, I was still able to get some nice views of Mars as well as the very thin crescent moon. The moon was actually very eerie (but way cool) to look at because the earthshine was illuminating the dark side and you could see slight shadows being cast by some of the more prominent features. Mars had more detail than I'd ever seen, including a very bright white southern polar cap and some dark regions that caught my attention.
One of the more interesting parts of the evening happened as we were getting ready to observe when this van full of people and astro-gear (an 8" Discovery dob and some binos) showed up. It turns out that these folks were from Idaho and had driven down to attend the SSP, which of course was actually a month earlier. Apparently Astronomy Magazine had posted incorrect dates for the SSP on their website and these folks unknowingly drove down thinking they would find a huge star party in progress. Well, even though they missed the SSP by a month, we still had a good time sharing views with them through our scopes. They set up their cots and sleeping bags on the runway and had a great time.