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Old 20-01-2008, 11:21 AM
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abellhunter
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abellhunter's Astro bio: Part #1

Part #1 my First Telescope

my first telescope was a 3" refractor
on a azimuth mount. The kind most kids
start with. It was a present from my
Mother for my 13th birthday. i can still
remember how amazed i was at seeing the
craters on the moon and the rings of
Saturn!

i grew up in a 30's farm house in Orange
County, California. It was dark enough
back then to faintly see the Milky Way.
i still recall orange groves everywhere.
In fact, i can still remember driving
along Interstate 5 in back of the old
station wagon and smelling the orange
blossoms.

Irvine Ranch was a farm not a city!
It stretched from the coastal
mountains to the beach. Newport Beach
had no buildings over 3 stories high.
Oh yes, it was still a place where one
could enjoy the stars.

i even remember the shop in Long Beach
where Cave Telescopes were made & sold.
These were great scopes and had the best
mirrors.

But in time the little 3" had showed me
all it could and went into the basement.
It wasn't until 1986 during the return
of Haley's Comet that it finally saw light
again. Now it sported a nice dint on the
tube and a lot of scratches. But when
i took the dust covers off the objective
was in great shape!

We drove out Santiago Canyon road in
January with some friends and found a
group of people set up in a roadside
turn out. i eagerly put the scope
on its tripod and with someone's help
saw Haley's Comet for the 1st time.
That night i looked through some larger
scopes and was hooked! The next day i
went and bought my first Sky & Telescope
magazine so i could learn more. The sky
charts for the comet were great and i
followed the comet until it was gone.

i also found out that there were amateur
astronomy clubs listed in the magazine.
This was when i decided to join the
Orange County Astronomers and get more
into the hobby.

http://www.ocastronomers.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_County_Astronomers

Lance aka "abellhunter"
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  #2  
Old 20-01-2008, 11:25 AM
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abellhunter's Astro bio: Part #2 & 3

Part #2 The OCA Observatory

In 1987 i joined the Orange County
Astronomers and was sent my first
news letter. In it they listed the
next Star Party for the Saturday
nearest the New Moon that month.
The OCA's dark site is 90 miles
away in Riverside County, near the
small town of Anza. We drove up
into an area 25 miles NE as a crow
flies from Palomar Observatory.
In fact we could see the 200"
telescope's white dome just over
the next ridge.

Here i was amazed once again by
the night sky. The club had been
up and running for around 10 years.
They had the club's Kuhn 22" cassegrain
in a roll off observatory. This was
hand built by Bill Kuhn in his garage.
Bill and the scope even made it into
the old Telescope Makers magazine.
The OCA's dark site back then had a
couple of smaller private observatories
and 3 dozen member pads with power. They
also had a large community pad that would
fit a dozen scopes easy. Then the flat
"football field" that was more than
enough for anyone else to use and future
expansion.

At the time John Sanford was President
and Wayne Johnson was Vice President.
They ran the 22" like pros, Wayne even
discovered a number of Supernovae with
it. I recall John was glued to the
C-14 in the SW corner of the observatory
most of the time. They were the best of
host and everyone had a great time!
___________________________________ ______

Part #3 my First Observatory

After a year of being a member of the
Orange County Astronomers i was in love
with the dark sky. So i started to look
for a place where i could build my own
observatory.

In January of 1989 i bought my 1st house
it was not next door to the OCA but was
close by. The place i feel in love with
was 2 miles out of Anza's village
center. It sat 4,200 feet on Table
Mountain, the eastern most section
of Anza Valley.

The view to the west is hay fields in
the Winter and potatoes in the Summer.
Then off on the horizon sat the beautiful
rock and jagged peak, Cahuilla Mountain.
To the East loomed Santa Rosa Mountain
and then desert below. The North was
just fields with a ranch or two then
Thomas Mountain 6,500 feet tall, and
peaking up from behind it San Jacinto
at 10,000 feet.

The view to the South: The observatory
dome on top of Palomar, just three
mountain ridges away. But by far the
BEST view was the Milky Way. To walk
out my front door and see the Milky Way
made me feel like i was in the best
place on the planet.

By Spring of 1986 i had completed my
own observatory, housing a C-11. i was
so happy to roll off that roof and
search the night with my Sky Atlas
2000.0 to the sound of coyotes howling.

Lance aka "abellhunter"
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  #3  
Old 20-01-2008, 11:38 AM
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abellhunter's Astro bio: Part #4

Part #4 The Observatory Gets Bigger

By 1991 i was getting a server case
of aperture fever. Just up the mountain
from Anza is the beautiful Mountain
town of Idyllwild. This is where
the legendary Coulter Optics
was located. They made the most
affordable dobs on the planet
and always ran adds in Sky &
Telescope.

So for $995 dollars i bought the
17 1/2 inch model and installed
a pair of digital setting circles.
Now i had my dream scope! The new
big dob had its own observatory,
with a 11 X 11 roll off roof.
This sat right next to the C-11's
observatory and made it easy to
go from scope to scope.

With the big scope, i could really
resolve those globular clusters
and hunt down those faint galaxies.
The galaxy clusters were just so
much fun to do. And in a few years
i had seen nearly every object
plotted on the old Sky Atlas 2000.0
By now everyone in Anza knew me as
"The Astronomer". It was known as
the place where people could come
by for a look through "a real big
scope".

i loved going to the Orange County
Astronomers Star Party with the new
17 1/2 inch. Just put that big red
tube on a mattress in the back of
the pick up, strap her down and go.
At this time it was the biggest
scope in the lower pad area and
always gave the best views.

Lance aka "abellhunter"
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Last edited by abellhunter; 20-01-2008 at 11:40 AM. Reason: wrong # number
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  #4  
Old 20-01-2008, 11:43 AM
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abellhunter's Astro bio: Part #5

Part #5 A Tail of Three Comets

By July of 1994 i had my two observatories
up and running for 5 years. The Hubble
space telescope was up and running too.
Every scope on the planet big and
small was ready. Yes, the most awesome
spectacle any astronomer could ever
imagine: Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

It was discovered just 3 mountain ridges
away from my Anza observatory, by the team
working on Palomar mountain. Even today
i can clearly recall the first evening
of the first impact. It hit the back
side just around the limb and took
only a few minutes to come into
view by Jupiter's rotation.

It was a large well defined black and
gray circular blotch, that had a very
deep black semi circle under it, like
a shock wave. From July 16th until
July 21st 1994 i sat with my 4" f15
Unitron, a C-11, and the 17 1/2 inch
dob and just marveled!

i made well over 100 sketches of the
impacts and their changes into August.
i was totally amazed as was the entire
astronomical community!

In September 2005, 10 years after SL-9
hit Jupiter i had the great honor to
meet David Levy. We met under the
southern skies, on the shores of
Lake Titicaca, at 12,500 feet in
the Bolivian Andes. There i presented
him copies of over 100 detailed
sketches that i made of his comet.
Along with all of my detailed notes
and descriptions.Funny thing, when
i handed the logbook and sketches
to him he had on a shirt that said:
"My Damm Comet Crashed!".

Then in Japan on January 30, 1996,
a amateur using six inch binoculars
was out to check on a comet he had
found in '95. As Yuji sweep the area
he found yet another comet, that would
later be known as the Great Comet of
1996, Comet Hyakutake 1996B2.
By March-April of '96 this was a huge
monster! It's thin tail as seen from
my observatory in Anza was at times
an honest 50 degrees long! The nucleus
and coma had details that i had never
seen in any comet before. The jets,
the hoods, the streamers off the head
were mind blowing. The sheer size of
the head was two or three times the
size of a full moon. Just flat out
jaw dropping!

As i sat there with this new monster
comet and both it's naked eye view
and the image i was seeing in the
17 1/2 dob at high power. i could
not help but think how truly awesome
this thing was. And how in such
a very very short time it had come
down on us. i mean, from Jan. 30th
when it was 1st spotted until March
only weeks later when it was LARGE,
until early/mid April when it came
so close to the earth it made me
shutter.

Remember this is on the heels of
Comet Shoemaker Levy 9's extraordinary
crash into Jupiter! my mind was
totally reeling! i could easily
take that image that i was looking
at in the big scope and transpose
that on the sky of a comet coming
straight in at us. i could imagine
the fear that humanity would be
under. But as an amateur astronomer,
sitting in his own observatory, i
thought to myself what a spectacular
way for an "Observer" to go!
What else could you do i thought,
this has been such a life long
passion, sit back and realize
that this is the best way to go.
While everyone is in terror just
partake in the most awesome sight
imaginable!

On July 1995 two Americans found the
next Great Comet. Known as The Great
Comet of 1997, Hale-Bopp. By March
of 1997 everyone knew we had yet
another naked eye comet to feast
on. From March through May the
Great Comet was both a morning
and evening object.

Its tail was bright and fan shaped
with both red blue & green color to
it. As with Hyakutake, i took many
piggy back photos on the C-11
with 100-200mm telephoto lenses.
And some great tripod shots with
a 50mm set up with mountain ridges
and pine trees in the foreground.
Again i can not help but think of
how great my timing was to be in
just the right place at the right
time! How could i ever have known
that when i took that huge step
in moving away from the city,
that these events would come
to pass?

i just wanted to leave the rat race
and be with nature under the Milky Way.
The way that things turned out with a
comfortable observatory under great
dark skies was just too much!

All i can say is, Every Day's a
B O N U S ~ D A Y !

Lance aka "abellhunter"
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  #5  
Old 20-01-2008, 01:11 PM
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abellhunter's Astro bio: Part #6

Part #6 The New Observatory

So after years of mining the sky
with the 3", then the C-11 and finally
the big 17 1/2 dob i had seen it all!
Every object plotted on the Sky Atlas
2000.0 that is. You have to remember
that this was before the Uranometra set
came out! When the 1st edition and then
the even better 2 ed. came out it was
time for that Bigger Scope!

In fact is was at this time that
the C-11 grew to a C14! i found
a good deal on a used one and sold the
C-11 to help pay for it.

On top of that i built a 24 X 28 steel
building with a roll off roof. This
was to house the C-14, a pair of
20 X 125 mm astro binos on a heavy
duty fork mount and a 28" StarMaster
with all the goodies.

You can see all my observatories that i
built and posted about, plus the best
observing run in my life!

Here:

http://www.anzaobservatory.com

and here:

http://www.anzaobservatory.com/gosouth.html

You can read all about my 34 day
observation run with a 22" StarMaster
on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia.
This included seeing the 100s of objects
plotted in the Urano atlas, 2nd ed. for
everything in both the LMC and SMC.
Plus my epic Globular Cluster Marathon. With
the help of 2 other hard core astronomers,
in a dusk to dawn marathon we saw a total of
101 globular clusters and made detailed
notes on all of them.

Lance aka "abellhunter"
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  #6  
Old 20-01-2008, 01:13 PM
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madtuna (Steve)
an overactive imagination

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an absolutely enjoyable read ....thanks for sharing!
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  #7  
Old 20-01-2008, 01:22 PM
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abellhunter's Astro bio: Part #7

Part #7 Go South!

The building boom of the late 90s and
2000s came from all directions to my
dark site. my observatory now came
under assault from all directions.
The towns at the bottom of the
mountains turned into cities and
the light pollution domes were
growing.

Even my once dark rural neighborhood,
where everyone knew to keep lights
off for the observatory was under
attack. All those friendly neighbors
had been replaced by flat landers.

They came up from the city, bulldozed
the entire land, pin to pin. Killing
all the Manzanita, Red Shank, Sage
& Mountain Mahogany. Then they drug
up a pre-fab and bought the biggest
brightest security lights they
oould find.

These people were ruthless! They
had no respect for anything but
their own narrow vision of mountain
living. Even the clubs dark site
(Orange County Astronomers) not
far from me was affected. i can
still remember when you could
only see ONE light from the
OCA dark site.

There had always been bylaws and
covenants in regard to outdoor
lighting. i mean Palomar Mountain
was nearby too. But this newest
migration of flat landers without
a clue were blatantly breaking
the laws and respect of the
locals. i tried to reason, i
tried to shield the lights,
i even tried to buy them off.
Nothing worked.

Well it came to the old adage:
"Love it or leave it." i left it!
and i'm glad i did when i did.
Because if i had waited any
longer, there wouldn't have been
any buyers in today's market.
Not to mention that i would
have been stuck under a sky
that never gets dark.

So my 28" StarMaster, 17 1/2 truss
dob, and C-14 are in a very dark
storage container. But don't cry!

i am now off the "Mainland" for
good on a 100 mile by 50 mile island
in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Yes the Big Island of Hawaii with
the darkest skies and 2 mountain
peaks over 13,700 feet tall.

i am now a regular at the Mauna Kea
Observatories.

See:

http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/mko/

Here at nearly 14,000 feet above sea
level i am currently making observations
with a pair of 20 X 125 mm astro
binoculars on a heavy duty fork mount.
The views from this location are some
of the best in the world.

Not to mention that the weather here
is great. i live by a warm clean blue
ocean, swim with dolphins and tropical
fish. See the whales and their calves
swim by in what can only be called
Paradise.

But i'm now ready to find a new home
for all my scopes, libary etc...

i am now posting this series of
stories of my astronomical adventures
to let everyone this:

i am committed to build the one of the Worlds
Finest Amateur Astronomy Observatory in the
Southern Hemisphere. You can see my
web site of the old Anza Observatory and
all of the equipment that will be part
of the project.

See my observatory that i wish to
move to the Southern hemisphere here:

http://www.anzaobservatory.com

and again the greatest observing run in my life:

http://www.anzaobservatory.com/gosouth.html

If there is anyone interested in this
project or has any comments suggestions
or ideas please eMail me at:

humphreys@greencafe.com

Go South!

Lance aka "abellhunter"
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Last edited by abellhunter; 21-01-2008 at 05:24 AM.
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  #8  
Old 20-01-2008, 01:39 PM
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astroron (Ron)
Supernova Searcher

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Lance and I posted your report on this forum a few weeks ago
http://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/s...ad.php?t=27067
It was a great read and I was mightely impressed.
Ron
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Old 28-01-2008, 10:20 AM
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Thanx Ron!

Quote:
Originally Posted by astroron View Post
Lance and I posted your report on this forum a few weeks ago
http://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/s...ad.php?t=27067
It was a great read and I was mightely impressed.
Ron
___________________________________ __________________

Maybe we can meet up in late Feb. - early Mar. and get to
know each other under that great southern sky....

Again:

G'day astro junkies!

check out this link to see the ARSENAL looking for a new home down under!

http://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/showthread.php?t=65

See post #354

___________________________________ _________________

We will be heading to Coonabarabran Feb. 26- Mar 9th '08
for a star party & to look at moving the observatory
there:

http://web.mac.com/anne_adkins/iWeb/Site/Welcome.html

Aloha, Lance aka "abellhunter"

http://www.anzaobservatory.com

28" StarMaster w/GOTO & Steve Kennedy optics
17 1/2" truss dob w/DSC
C-14 w/Argo Navis
20 x 125 mm Astro binoc's
bla bla bla
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  #10  
Old 28-01-2008, 03:36 PM
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Ric
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Hi Lance, that was a very enjoyable read of your journey so far in amateur astronomy and obviously it is not over yet with more interesting chapter to add.

To say I am jealous of some of your observing locations would be an understatement.

Hope to catch up with you one day and share a beer

Cheers
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Old 29-01-2008, 02:24 PM
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Is that thing loaded? hehehehehehehe

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ric View Post
Hi Lance, that was a very enjoyable read of your journey so far in amateur astronomy and obviously it is not over yet with more interesting chapter to add.

To say I am jealous of some of your observing locations would be an understatement.

Hope to catch up with you one day and share a beer

Cheers
___________________________________ _______________

Aloha!

Re: next chapter.......

Right, i am so stoaked, at getting to OZ next month!

Be taking a good hard look at Coonabarabran and my next
visit, (hopefully 'round Aug. '08) i'll be looking at Alice....

Kinda like The Alice, just because it's further North. i would
like to see as much of the Milky Way as i can!
___________________________________ ____

Re: your observing locations

Man, where do i start......

From the Pyramids of Egypt, to the Tibetan Plateau,
to 12,500 ft. in the Andes mountains on the shores
of Lake Titicaca. My Anza observatory/retreat for 17
years, where i could see the dome of Palomar's 200 inch
from my kitchen window. And now making observations
from Mauna Kea's 13,700 foot peak on a regular basis!

After that, all i can say is -15 to -25 is the best! Just
gotta find the right place, and that'll be it, NO MORE
MOVING!
___________________________________ ___

Re: meet up someday....

i'll be in Sydney on Feb. 26-28th and Coona.....see:

http://web.mac.com/anne_adkins/iWeb/Site/Welcome.html

From Feb. 29th - Mar 8th
___________________________________ _______

May you & yours always be in fine health and
great calm, with gratitude and warm aloha,
Lance aka "abellhunter"

http://www.anzaobservatory.com
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