Old Friends

by Mark Wagner

"Old friends, sat on the park bench like bookends..."

I had a great time at CalStar this year. Much to my surprise not only did my daughter Mimi accompany me, not unusual, but my son decided last minute to join us. He even used my 10" CPT Dob to hunt down some Messier objects. That has to be a first, and alone made the trip memorable.

But if the newness of my son participating in the hobby I so enjoy added a spark, old friends provided the backdrop, the musical score, or maybe even the continuity that makes star parties, big and small, so familiar and enjoyable. I had a really great time.

The old friends are not just people. They can be objects seen through the eyepiece only in special places, like CalStar at Lake San Antonio. Skies back in San Jose just do not support more frequent visits. Galaxy trios - pairs of galaxy trios - NGC 48, 49 and 51 appearing quietly in the eyepiece - not there at first, then slowly revealing themselves. Then look, there are the others, these old friends from prior trips - the three IC galaxies dimly mimicking them closely to their south, all six in the field of view.

I turn from the eyepiece and there's my friend Nilesh and his wife Minal. It has been a year. This is indeed a special place. Wonderful people I rarely get to see. Jim Everitt, been a while. The Astronomical Unit - club members from around Santa Barbara - familiar faces!

All weekend the same continued. Saturn in Steve Kennedy's 24" Dob at 600X looking like a Hubble photo - not a shimmer or ripple in the steady view. Turn around and there stands Jeff Gortatowski, a friendly name on a mailing list who I get to see a few times a year, standing there with cup in hand asking for some special coffee. Bill Dean, afraid of fire with his beard a year long - last time I saw him it was shaved for granny's visit! Walt Reis from the Central Coast Astronomers, stopping by, becoming more than just another "object" in print. It is hard sometimes to tell which old friends are more fun to see.

Then I realize there is no separation. One in the same, all old friends.

Lichtenberg, Alsing, Searle, STF2816, NGC7700, Tom Parker, Susan Wicks, The Shadow, Turley's laugh, Rashad's too. Zeta Aquarii as two perfectly round beads through the Genesis next door.

Navarrete, of course, always upbeat. Koop, keeping it together. Thanks Mike, for the hard work. Another old friend. NGC 1501 at 1000X.

Incomparable times.

Jane, thank you for the wine and company. Gary, you're forgiven for the "Hairy" picture.

Shirley from Valley Catering, serving up the dinners. A new old friend.

Speaking of new friends, I have to mention the astronomy club from Atascadero. A big thank you to whoever their teacher is, for it was the teacher that somehow found out about CalStar and brought the students. I turned my 18" Dob over to two young ladies, seniors in the high school's astronomy club, and talked them around the sky. They pushed the scope, peeked through the Quickfinder and had so much fun, it was absolutely contagious. I'm sure "walking" the waterfall side of the Veil through an OIII filter will be a great memory for them.

I guess I like the new friends too - old friends in the making. Like first time objects I get to visit again next year.

I hope I see old and new friends there next time. Eye to eye and in my scope.

Old friends... sat on their camp chair like bookends. Meeting each year back at CalStar...

I sure missed some of my old friend this year. My thoughts were with you.

I'm sure thankful for the new friends too. Let's do it again in 2004.