by Marek Cichanski
I had a heckuva good time this year. Saw a ton of stuff, got to look through a great number of scopes, and hung out with some really fun people. I don't know how Mark, Mike, and company managed to make the fog roll in at just the right time to allow for morning sleep after a full night of observing, but that was a nice touch. ;-)
A few things that stand out in my memory:
Carl Larsen's (sp?) great generosity in letting me look through his 18" Obsession. It was a real thrill to use "my future dream scope". Mark Wagner was similarly generous to me last year.
Speaking of which, the view of the Veil through that scope with Terminagler and OIII was, as Craig Colvin said, life-altering. We all oohed and aahed quite a bit.
The "whole Veil complex" view through James Turley's 114mm Vixen apo. Equally as impressive in its own way. Aperture wins virtually all the time, but not always.
Seeing the body of Saturn through the Cassini division. I'm not 100% sure I saw this, but I think I did. This was part of a view of Saturn that felt like a ride on the Cassini probe. Again, this was through Carl's 18". Aperture was winning in a big way here, with a significant assist from Carl's meticulous collimation. I've gotta get one of those big bubbas some day, even if it means the labor of Hercules.
(I'll probably live to regret saying this, but for me, this was a huge victory for aperture. A huge scope like that can theoretically be cranked to a ridiculous magnification, and even at some crazy mag like 600x, it was just loafing along. And the image was still brighter than all get out. I'm not going to go so far as to say that big dobs are the only good scopes for planets, because there are a number of good counterpoints. But on that one occasion, aperture didn't just win, it strode arrogantly over the scorched fields and smoking corpses of its opponents, and laughed victoriously atop a mountain of skulls. Whew, that was some view of Saturn!)
The infamous gegenschein. I had made a point of calculating the antisolar point before Calstar, because I really wanted to see this. Late Saturday night, it seemed to me that I was seeing a broad, diffuse glow in the correct area. I told James and a few others about it, and although there wasn't a clear consensus, it seemed like a reasonable possibility. I don't know why we thought Mark would be skeptical about it, but for some reason we did. So, we went over and said "Hey Mark, did you check out this gegenschein?", expecting some sort of good-natured ribbing in return. To our delight, though, Mark and several others saw it as well.
For me, in a way, the 'Calstar 2003 Gegenschein' is the perfect sort of thing to see. Rare, interesting, hard to spot, and not agreed about by everyone. It will provide fodder for everything from wistful nostalgia to good-natured ribbing to vitriolic flame wars for years to come. In other words, the classic TAC object. Good times...