Sunday, March 03, 2013


My Favorite Star Parties: Deep South Regional Star Gaze 1993

Not so old Unk
“More nostalgia, Uncle Rod?” Yep, and there are a couple of reasons for that, muchachos. Most of all, a recent big change in Unk’s life has had him doing some introspection and a bit of dwelling in the past. After thirty years, I have taken early retirement from my engineering job. And that is OK. It will allow me more time for the other things that really matter. Which is not to say I won't miss the job;  I loved it—most of the time, anyhow. I was a little apprehensive about retirement when I made the decision, and still am, but I am OK for now, y'all. Maybe because of this huge change, I feel impelled to do a little “where have I been” ruminating.

The other reason for another stroll down memory lane is that it has been cloudy or cold or, most often, a combination of the two and Unk has not been able to get out and see a cotton-picking thing other than the Moon and old Jupe (with the C90). Better than nothing, sure, but I haven't done any faint fuzzy-chasing since I got a quick glimpse of Comet Ison three weeks ago.

OK, let’s see…set the WABAC machine for 14 October 1993. That was a rather lonely time for me. I’d been divorced for almost a year and still hadn’t quite readjusted to the single life. What helped was the Possum Swamp Astronomical Society (the name of which, as always, has been changed here to protect innocent and guilty alike), which in those days was at its unfortunately short-lived peak. Internet amateur astronomy was just getting underway, barely—nobody I knew had Internet access—and there was no 24-hour astronomy “astronomy club meeting” like Cloudy Nights. Well, there almost wasn't. There was Fidonet Astronomy, the original (non Internet) astronomy computer bulletin board, but there wasn’t always a lot of traffic day to day, so I looked forward to the chance to talk amateur astronomy for a couple of hours each month at the club.

We also did considerable group observing back then at a club dark site. But that wasn’t all; we liked to get together and go to star parties. Groups of club members routinely went as far afield as the Texas Star Party, but the big event on the club calendar was always the Deep South Regional Star Gaze. That was and still is our local star party, being barely three hours away in the piney woods of Mississippi. Back then, it was held at Percy Quin State Park, just outside McComb, Mississippi.

In 1993, I was excited as DSRSG XI approached; it seemed like all I’d been doing for months was working in the shipyard day and night. Which was my own fault. Oh, the boss loved it, but I mainly did it because I didn’t have much else to fill the empty hours. I was more than ready for a break, and on Thursday morning it was wonderful to hit Highway 98 in my Hyundai Excel Hatchback.

What was in the somewhat clunky little Hyundai with me? Not much, y’all, not much. This was probably the last time I really traveled light. How light? Other than the telescope and accessories, all I brought with me in addition to a suitcase and bedding was a Styrofoam ice chest, ice, a carton of Benson and Hedges Menthol 100s (yes, dumb Unk was a smoker then), and some snacks—fritos, nacho-bean dip, and similar junk—all obtained in a 10-minute shopping spree at K&B drugs the evening before.  Of course there was the omnipresent Rebel Yell; even back then I was enamored of the Lethe-like waters of that sacred bottle. Believe it or no, that was it for the “support gear,” campers. I had considered a picnic canopy, but passed on that, slightly foolishly it turned out.

The extent of my accessories...
The telescope and accessories? As you know if you read last week’s installment, at the time I was packing my uber-minimalist 8-inch f/7 Coulter Odyssey Dobsonian, Mabel. With her in the back of the Hyundai on that long-ago Thursday morning was a Telrad, a small box of 1.25-inch eyepieces, my canary yellow Orion Astronomer’s Flashlight, and my charts. For finding my way I brought along my dog-eared copy of Sky Atlas 2000, the black stars on white sky “Desk Edition.” Even then, with younger eyes, I found black stars/white sky easier to decipher under red light than the opposite.

I had another set of sky maps with me, too. Unk had decided this would be the year for him to get started in computerized amateur astronomy. No, I didn’t have a laptop. They were expensive in those days, and the very idea of using one on a damp observing field gave me the heebie-jeebies. Couldn’t afford one, anyway. I printed out charts with my IBM desktop, put them in a notebook with my observing list, and thus entered the world of PC astronomy in (very) simple fashion. 

The only real good program I had at the time was SkyGlobe 3.6. In some ways, it was wonderful, but its printouts, even in 1993, were not exactly bleeding-edge. I was determined to give them a try anyhow and printed a bunch to go along with my extensive (or so I thought) observing list of over 40 objects. I drew Telrad circles on the SkyGlobe printouts with a pencil and compass.

And off we went to Mississippi, just me and Mabel for three-and-a-half hours on Bloody Highway 98, which was still 2-lanes all the way to McComb. For much of its length, the road’s shoulders were not quite wide enough for you to get out of the way in the event an oncoming log truck drifted into your lane, a not uncommon occurrence and the reason for the highway’s “bloody” reputation. Other than a few minutes spent on the main drag through Lucedale and the semi-main drag through Hattiesburg, there wasn’t a whole lot to see, though the scenery was sometimes pretty enough.

I’d been this way before, during my Air Force days in the 1970s when I was stationed in Little Rock and was on one of my infrequent visits back home. When I'd pass through Lucedale, I always stopped at one of the best breakfast joints I have ever had the pleasure to visit, The Coffee Pot. Lucedale hadn’t changed much since I’d been there last, but, unfortunately, the exception was The Coffee Pot. It was now a Chinese buffet for God’s sake. Ah, well, me and Mabel pressed on.

After Hattiesburg all that remained before McComb was an hour and a half of alternating piney woods and farm country. Well, an hour and a half on a good day. If you didn’t get behind Old MacDonald on his tractor. Which I frequently did, extending my trip by about half an hour.

McComb was a welcome sight when I made it, but in retrospect the handwriting was on the wall for the star party’s Percy Quin location even then. It was obvious the town was growing, albeit slowly, and would continue to grow, and that its light dome would eventually overwhelm us. In 1993, though, we still had seven or eight really good years of magnitude 6+ skies left before one strip mall too many pushed the light pollution over the edge. Percy Quin, a beautiful state park with an extensive lake, Lake Tangipahoa, and elaborate camping facilities, was just too close to McComb, barely a couple of miles to the west and north.

Anyhoo, motored on through McComb, went under the I-55 overpass just west of town, hung an immediate left, and proceeded past Mr. Whiskers’ Catfish Cabin to the well-marked park entrance on the right. Told the Ranger at the guard shack where I was going, got a permit, and headed for the Group Camp area where DSRSG was held.

The winding road led me over the lake’s dam, back into heavy forest, and to the turn-off for the Group Camp. Which old—or, actually,  not so old at all at the time—Unk naturally missed. DSRSG organizers had provided a good map of the park, but apparently I had been holding it upside down. After several minutes on a stretch that began to devolve into a rutted trail, Unk got the message, turned around, and soon noticed a prominent DSRSG sign he’d overlooked at a fork in the road.

And there was the observing field, a football field (there were even goalposts) hacked out of the forest. And just as always, the first order of business was getting set up on that field. I actually set up twice. Off by myself at first, and over with my PSAS buddies when a couple of them who were already onsite noticed I’d arrived and urged me to come over and join them in “our” spot.

It was hot. Plenty hot. Humid and in the upper 80s if not the low 90s. Which was not unexpected, since this was one of the earliest DSRSGs ever held; normally it’s in late October/early November. Looked like it had been a major error not to buy that tent canopy at K&B, but it also looked like I’d be welcome to share my friends’ shade. I might need shelter from rain as well—there was no denying there was a chance of that. We were not yet completely clouded out by any means; there were still big stretches of blue, but they were shrinking. At least I’d had sense enough to buy a tarp to cover the scope, and it looked like I might need it.

So, on to setup, which consisted of plunking down Mabel’s rocker box, setting her fire engine red tube in that, attaching the Telrad (I was careful to orient the telescope’s tube so the sun would not fry the delicate reticle), positioning my TV tray observing table close at hand, and placing atlas, flashlight, eyepiece box, and observing list notebook on that. Stationed my ice chest under one of my fellow PSASers’ canopies to keep the ice from melting for as long as possible. Maybe ten minutes of set up compared to the hour that is normal for me and Miss Dorothy today.

Star party observing field early 90s style...
Nevertheless, I’d worked up a pretty good sweat in the sauna-like conditions, and the breeze that sprang up was blessed relief even if it had the feel of “bad weather coming” in it. Rain was coming, maybe, but I knew, knew, we’d get a few hours Thursday night. I was so hungry for the deep sky that we just had to.

I spent the rest of a long afternoon visiting with my fellow club members. This was one of the best PSAS turnouts for DSRSG ever; there would eventually be nine of us in attendance including the (in)famous Junie Moon. I also spent time with the sponsoring club’s, the Pontchartrain Astronomical Society’s, members, admiring their many beautiful telescopes. That was a big treat for me in those days. Yes, DSRSG was small, usually with about a hundred folks in attendance, but that still gave me the chance to admire (and try) many more telescopes than would ever be at the PSAS dark site back home. I even got a look at one of the great big (17.5-inch) Coulter Odyssey IIs I'd been admiring in the magazine ads for years.

After a turn or two around the field, I strolled over to the Registration Tent, which was being manned then as now by DSRSG Managing Director Barry Simon. Barry did a great job in 1993, and he did a great job in 2012. He’s wanted to/tried to pass on his position a couple of times, including to Unk—who had to bow out due to the exigencies of his engineering job the last couple of years—but luckily for us, Barry is still THE MAN and still bringing us Deep South every single year.

Badge in hand, it was time to check out the accommodations. As I have said before, the best feature of Percy Quin was not its observing field, but the Group Camp’s cabins. They were modern on the outside, and, while not fancy on the inside—and always reeking of bug spray—were well equipped. Each had a large bathroom, and, get this, central heat and air. The GI style bunk beds were not like a Beauty-Rest, but they were sufficient.

My suitcase and bedding dropped off on one of the bunks in the cabin Barry customarily assigned to the PSAS, it was, almost unbelievably, getting on to suppertime. Aye, there was the rub. While the cabin area featured a cafeteria with real cafeteria ladies, meals would not commence till the next day; we were on our own for supper. Which was not a big deal. Yes, McComb’s closeness was bad for our skies, but good for our stomachs. If you needed food or anything else it was just minutes away. I’d noticed a little Chinese place not far from the I-55 overpass, and considered that till I heard everybody was going to Mr. Whiskers.

As I’ve told y’all a time or two, Mr. Whisker’s service could best be described as “slow,” and their “all you can eat” catfish was dispensed rather grudgingly after the first helping, but the fish and the sides—coleslaw, hushpuppies, french-fries—were good; some of the best I’ve had in the area. Normally, Unk is a little skittish about doing supper with folks I don’t know well, but this was a friendly bunch, and with several of my PSAS mates there with me I had a good time.

After supper it was back to the observing field for some of that good old waiting and hoping. For once, my optimism was right on the money; we did get several hours Thursday evening. Unk was quick to unlimber ol’ Mabel, get my prized 25mm Vixen Ortho in her plumbing parts focuser, and hit the deep sky.

What did I look at Thursday night? I started with the sinking summer marvels. M17, the Swan, looked incredible on the Coulter’s first night under anything approaching dark skies. So did M27, M13, M11, and the rest of the summertime crew. Those delights were not my real agenda, howsomeever. It was fall, and I was all het-up to do fall objects, especially the many galaxies scattered across Pegasus.

How would I do them? How would I find them? Mostly with Sky Atlas 2000. But there were those Skyglobe charts too. How did they work? While I could see the promise of computer generated charts, these weren’t quite there. There were almost enough stars for star-hopping, the whole Yale bright star catalog, which went down to an amazing (for a computer program in them days) magnitude 6.5. That was a little better than Norton’s and the Edmund Mag 6 Star Atlas, but there was a problem: “binning.” There wasn’t any.

Star atlases indicate star magnitudes by the sizes of the stars’ printed dots. Bigger = brighter. The range of magnitudes represented by a certain size dot is the atlas’ binning. Having many different dot sizes is better. Alas, the charts printed with SkyGlobe 3.6 were not binned at all. All stars were represented by dots of the same size, making it hard to match patterns in the sky with patterns on the chart. Not only that; the dots were way too small and hard to see under red light. I did use a Skyglobe chart to locate M15, which showed much resolution and a crazy bright core, but that was about it. The rest of the objects I chased were chased with SA2000.

And what did I chase? I didn’t get every Pegasus galaxy on my list, not even close, but I got a few. Starting with NGC 7331, the famous “Deerlick Galaxy” not far from Stephan’s Quintet. I even picked out one or two of the deer, the tiny galaxies that cluster near big mama 7331. Another standout was NGC 7332, a bright mag 11.0 S0 galaxy that’s nearly edge on and which almost put my eye out. I didn’t notice nearby and dimmer NGC 7339, probably because by mid-evening conditions had begun to deteriorate.

I wasn’t ready to give up at 9 p.m., though, that’s fer sure. Even without a Monster Energy Drink or a cup of coffee, 40 year-old Unk was still raring to go. And go I did for a little while, knocking off a couple more Pegasus sprites including the outstanding magnitude 10 spiral galaxy, NGC 7217, shining on like a crazy diamond up in the Horse’s “forelegs” area.

After the last of my handful of Pegasus galaxies, I cooled my heels, waiting for another sucker hole to open up. When it did, I made a bee-line for M33, Triangulum’s enormous spiral, a galaxy I’ve loved since I was a boy. I got an OK look at it—the arms were pretty well defined—but conditions, never good, were getting worse, and what I saw was not even close to the detail my 12-inch scope, Old Betsy, would turn up the following year.  The Pinwheel was still good, though, very good, and a fine way to close out the first evening of DSRSG 1993.

All evening, clouds had rolled in, but they had also rolled out. By 11 p.m., though, it was clear the latest bunch intended to stay a while. I poured out some Yell, had a nip or three, and made one last circuit of the field. A Few folks were still under their tent canopies, huddled against the increasingly damp night, but most had thrown in the towel, which was what I proceeded to do. It was a walk of a quarter mile back to the cabins, past one real dark and spooky stretch: “Hark! What was that? That wasn’t…the Skunk Ape…was it?!”

In my bunk, staring up at the skylight, which was now completely devoid of stars, I thought about the evening as I dropped off to sleep. The bad was that I’d seen just barely enough to whet my appetite. After an intermittently cloudy summer I was hoping for more. The good was that what I had seen had been real good; especially NGC 7331. What was also good was that Mabel had worked well. I was now used to the nudge-nudge paradigm of Dobsonians. Since I hadn’t had occasion to use much magnification, I didn’t miss a clock drive a bit. And under dark skies, finding objects with “just” a Telrad was effortless.

The cabins.
Friday, day two, dawned and I wish I could say it was to clear skies. It wasn’t. It wasn’t raining, but the best description of our sky was “socked in.” The air was still and heavy. There wasn’t a feel of impending bad weather, no, but it didn’t look like there’d be any blue anytime soon. After performing my morning ablutions, I lit out for the observing field to see what might be going on there. In them days we only got breakfast in the cafeteria on Saturday and Sunday, but that was OK. I still wasn’t overly hungry after the visit Mr. Whisker’s the evening before.

What was happening on the observing field? Not much. I trotted around swapping observing fish stories from the night before with all and sundry:  “Heck, y’all, I saw three of the little NGC galaxies in the field of NGC 7331, at least three!” I also finally got a chance to buy something.

One of the constant features of Deep South for over 15 years was the presence of Rex’s Astrostuff, Rex McDaniel, who always had plenty of fascinating wares to sell. Alas, he didn’t start attending till 1994. There was a couple on the field selling various small items in 1993, though. They had come all the way from Kansas City, Kansas and in addition to small widgets and eyepieces were displaying beautiful astronomically-themed quilts. I wasn’t interested in a quilt, but I was interested in their surplus König eyepieces.

It appeared these Königs had been intended for spotting scope use, since they came in little boxes marked "25x" in spotting scope eyepiece fashion (see the picture above). Also, while their barrels were 1.25-inch in diameter, there was no "shoulder" to keep them from slipping all the way down your focuser and going ker-plunk on the primary. Bubba had a roll of narrow tape he was using to wrap the upper ends of the barrels to prevent that. Then as now, Unk was a big fan of cheap but good eyepieces. With an apparent field of near 60-degrees, these Königs were what I considered ultra-wide field in those simpler times. The price was right, and I snapped one up. It was and is a good performer and is still in my eyepiece case to this very day.

Lunch came, and we were again “on our own.” I considered heading to town but wound up snacking on the Fritos and dip and candy I’d bought at K&B instead. That, a can of Pepsi, and I was good to go till supper when meals in the cafeteria would begin.

The afternoon was a slow one. Barry had designated 1 p.m. as the time for the swap meet on the field, and while there were a few people with a few tables of junk for sale, there wasn’t much. Certainly not anything Unk wanted or needed, which is saying something, since I usually at least want any astro-junk anybody has for sale at a star party. Tell the truth, I’ve never been to an event with decent swap tables. I’m told that you have to go to Stellafane to get the gravy swap-meet-wise.

One of the highlights of the long, long afternoon was the arrival of PSAS President Dave Switzer, who came bearing his beautiful LX200 (classic) 10-inch. David was one of the early adopters of Meade’s breakthrough go-to Schmidt Cassegrain, and I was at first skeptical of his choice of new scope. But the Meade had proved herself to me at the PSAS’ old Mississippi state line dark site with bang-on pointing and excellent images. I just hoped she would get a chance to strut her stuff at DSRSG. The weather was, if anything, looking worse rather than better as the afternoon wore on.

As I was ruminating on that, Pat Rochford pulled in with his 18-inch Dobsonian and our Possum Swamp contingent was complete. As with Dave’s telescope, Pat’s Sky Designs had amazed me by what it could do from semi dark skies, and I sure hoped I would see what it would do with something approaching “real dark.”  A glance at the sky, however, showed the chance of that had not improved.

Saturday afternoon under cloudy skies...
At last, the afternoon was done. Following a prize drawing on the field—I didn’t win anything naturally—it was time for our first meal in the park cafeteria. The good of that was it was close at hand in the area of the cabins. It also offered a beautiful view of the lake. The bad? As I’ve mentioned before, the food the state park prepared was not four-star. It was not one star. But it was edible. In fact, I was almost impressed. I just looked on the bone I found in my chicken gumbo as being a sign of good luck.

And I guess it was. We did not have a great or even good night, but we did get an hour or so after sundown. I spent some time with both Mr. Switzer’s and Mr. Rochford’s telescopes, but what is still fresh in my memory is the tour I made of Cygnus with Mabel. It had been a long while since I’d been able to trot up and down the Milky Way under good skies, and I had a ball with M27, M71 (that little glob was freaking outstanding in its rich, rich field), M39, and M29. I even convinced myself my new König showed me a hint of the vaunted Crescent Nebula, NGC 6888. I know The Blinking Planetary, NGC 6826, was beautiful, if too bright to blink very well.

When the clouds closed in it was just after 8:30 p.m., way too early for young Rod to call it. I covered the scope’s aperture with the freaking shower cap Coulter furnished for that purpose, but left the tarp off, hoping against hope we might get some sucker holes before the night was out. Strolled around the field, cup of Yell in hand, shooting the breeze with the hardy souls sticking it out on the field in the damp air.

I eventually wandered back to the cabins to see what, if anything, might be going on there. Believe it or not, a couple of folks had a (desktop) PC cranked up and were looking at astronomy software. Real cool astronomy software, including the DOS version of TheSky, which made SkyGlobe look sick. After kibitzing with them for a while, it was back down to the field where I hung out till midnight, when I finally gave up, covering Mabel and walking off the now mostly deserted observing field.

I was up more than early enough Saturday to catch breakfast in the cafeteria at 8 a.m. “Eight” might be too early after an all-nighter but was OK following a cloudy night. Anyhoo, the food—eggs, biscuits, sausage—was surprisingly good and a definite click better than supper had been. Once more, Unk had no pressing engagements and just moseyed on over to the observing field.

There, it was purty much a repeat of Friday. When you are in bed early and up early at a star party, there are just too many hours to fill sitting on the field, especially in those long-lost days before the Internet and DVDs. I had my Sony Walkman (an audio cassette tape player, younguns) but that was it. Shoulda brought something along to read, dangit.

I was able to cure that want in excellent fashion at the afternoon swap meet. Again, there weren’t many tables set up, but the one just down from me was enough. This dude was selling his Sky & Telescope back issues. A quick look showed they ran from the mid-seventies to the late 80s—mostly issues I didn't have. I no doubt paid too much for the magazines, but I could afford it and it turned out to be a good buy. Not just entertaining me on that long afternoon but providing enjoyment and an excellent reference tool for many yearsuntil all Sky & Telescope's back issues were finally put on DVDs in the 2000s. I whiled away the rest of the day browsing my big stack of Sky ‘n ‘Scopes.

What else was there to do? In addition to the swap tables, there was contest judging. The DSRSG used to run a photo contest and an ATM contest. But, like at other star parties, there were seldom many entries, and the events were discontinued years and years ago. I have seen one good astrophoto competition over the years, but that was at TSP, which has a substantially larger audience of astro-imagers to draw from than most star parties.

I was then putting one toe in the imaging game, so I was interested to see what astrophotographers were doing these days. Of even greater interest to Unk, though, was the final and biggest prize give-away. What did I win? Not squat. I am not making it up when I tell you I never won a thing till my good luck charm, Miss Dorothy, came along. Even with her at my side, it’s usually her who wins a nice prize, with my victories over the years confined to a couple of Vixen dovetails, a screen saver, a poster or two, and a pair of 10x50 binoculars.

Lunch in the cafeteria was alright. One thing I never understood about the place, though:  there was always plenty of food, but we were constantly admonished that we could only get one drink refill. I mean, how much did it cost the park to brew up dadgum sweet tea and Kool-Aid? After the meal, all that remained of Saturday was taken up by a group picture and supper. That meal, alas, was not quite as good as lunch. I had no idea what the meat patty set in front of me was. Pork? Beef? Armadillo? Something more exotic? I ate it anyway and had a good time hee-hawing about it with my buddies old and new.

Surely the weather gods would have pity on us on this last night? Nope. Not hardly. If anything, what little clear we had amounted to even less than on Friday night. I am proud to say Unk stayed on the field till the wee hours, resolute in the idea I was going to see something else come hell or high water. Well, it didn’t rain, so there was no high water, but we didn’t see anything to speak of. At 2 a.m. I declared it night-night time.

And, so, DSRSG 1993 was history. Packed the car in about 10-minutes, drove to the cabins to  retrieve my suitcase and bedding, and, that done, walked over to the nearby Pavilion for Barry’s wrap-up meeting. The big deal there was that Barry gave us the dates for DSRSG ’94. I made note of that and hoped it would be a better year weather-wise. What I didn’t know was what a different star party experience it would be for me. I’d had a lovely time at DSRSG ’93, but ’94 would be oh-so-much better. I’d have Dorothy, who I was to meet in a little over five months, at my side, you see.

The pavilion...
Then, muchachos, it was time to hit Highway 98 for the drive home. I was a little melancholy. I was leaving my DSRSG friends for another year, and there wouldn’t be much (I thought) to look forward to in the immediate future other than more endless days and nights in the shipyard. I contented myself that I’d at least have all those old Sky & Telescopes to enjoy. As I turned the Hyundai for Possum Swamp, I didn’t whistle a little tune, but I felt somewhat better. I hadn’t seen much, but I’d seen some. Mabel had got her dark sky baptism, and, most of all, I’d had fun. As much fun as the following year? Well, no. In 1994 the weather only maringally better, but I was a newlywed and had my beautiful new wife with me! 

Congrats on the early retirement from NGC! You'll love it! I retired (also early) from NGC (aerospace side in CA) in mid-2007. --Mike
Thanks, week in, it still seems awful strange LOL...
Life begins at retirement! Enjoy these golden years. I know I am. I do more imaging in a month than I used to do in a year! I also related to having astronomy help me go through a divorce. I had my old C8 in the pawn shop before I realized I was in the wrong marriage. Truth sometimes hurts. Glad you found your way, what a long strange trip it is sometimes.

Ain't _that_ the freaking truth, Richard... :-)
Congratulations on your retirement Rod. I pulled my plug a little over a year ago and I couldn't be happier. I still have this feeling that I need to be somewhere but it is slowly receding into the fog of time. Enjoy every minute of it.
Congratulations on your retirement Rod. I pulled my plug a little over a year ago and I couldn't be happier. I still have this feeling that I need to be somewhere but it is slowly receding into the fog of time. Enjoy every minute of it.
Hey Rod,

I was just looking at some of your earlier blog entries and you mentioned Desert Storm Covers you used on your scopes. I'm sure you know by now that Astrogizmos is selling covers that they call Desert Storm and look li,e the one you have on an older post.

Anywho, I'd like to know what size desert Storm cover you used- it looks like it went almost to the ground on your GEM mounted C8 (post of 11/14/2010).

Don Horne
Howdy Don:

The Desert Storm cover I use is one of the originals sold by the (now gone) Pocono Mountain Optics. But the ones sold by 'Gizmos are about the same. Mine was advertised for C/11 or 12-inch Dob. It wasn't right for a 12-inch Dob...just too tight at the bottom, but it is perfect for a C8 or C11...
Thanks, Rod.

I retired from my main job about 6 years ago.
Someone asked me how I adjusted. I told them that I had a real problem on the first morning.... For about 15 min. Then, not so much of a problem. Now, wouldn't go back.

So much more time for the grandkids, astronomy, and photography.

Like another commenter said, life begins after retirement?

Hang in there and keep us all posted on how semi-retirement is going with ya.

Clear skies...
Don Horne
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