Journey to Kitt Peak National Observatory & SAS/CBA Meeting 2006

It took me about 3 seconds to say “Yes !” when Joe Patterson (CBA, New York) invited me – end of 2005 - to attend the SAS (Society for Astronomical Sciences) 2006 Symposium on Telescope Science at Big Bear Lake, CA. The SAS Conference Committee and Joe had decided to turn the 2006 Symposium into a joint SAS / CBA Meeting, creating an excellent opportunity to finally meet a large group of CBA members face-to-face, and to socialize with the “crème” of the US amateur astronomer’s world.  

The weeks before the SAS / CBA meeting were pretty chaotic. I had accepted to both give a workshop on period and light curve analysis techniques using Peranso, and to present a paper. Since this was my first Peranso workshop ever, the preparation took much longer than expected, but it turned out to be a rewarding experience.  

I finally left Belgium on Saturday May 20th  in the early morning, for a (very) long flight to Tucson , Arizona . When I arrived at Tucson airport, late in the evening (local time), Joe Patterson picked me up and we headed for  a one hour drive to Kitt Peak National Observatory. At an elevation of 2100m, Kitt Peak features the world’s largest collection of astronomical observatories (25 in total), and is a true paradise for professional – and amateur – astronomers.  

A few domes at Kitt Peak National Observatory. The largest one contains the Mayall 4-meter telescope

The MDM Observatory at Kitt Peak.

We arrived at Kitt Peak ’s MDM Observatory under perfectly clear (and extremely dark) skies. A few minutes later, I met Jonathan Kemp, who was operating the 1.3-m McGraw Hill telescope at MDM Observatory, studying one of the CBA targets. I was quite tired from the long trip, so after about an hour, I headed towards my dormitory for a short sleep.  

When I woke up the next morning, I finally got to see Kitt Peak in daylight. The view from the top of the mountain was outstanding, even more accentuated by the many domes lined up against the deep blue skyline. It must have been 10 years ago, when I last saw Berto Monard, a Belgian CBA member living and (successfully) observing from South Africa . All these years, we had stayed in close contact, so I was most pleased to finally run into Berto again at Kitt Peak . That day, Joe Patterson took Berto and myself for a guided tour at Kitt Peak . We got to see many observatories, a/o the 2.4-m Hiltner telescope and the impressive National Solar Observatory.  

It's all about us ...

The 1.3-m McGraw Hill Telescope at MDM Observatory

After dinner, we participated in a CBA observing session at MDM Observatory, where we met some of Joe’s students from Columbia University , going through pretty much the same sequence of observing steps as we do in our small observatories.  

On Monday May 21st, we left Kitt Peak for a long drive to Big Bear Lake (CA). The journey was quite scenic with stops at Saguaro National Park, and nice views of the Mojave Desert, San Bernardino National Forest, etc. After our check in at the Northwoods Resort in Big Bear Lake, we soon met the first group of CBA and SAS people, a/o Jerry and Cindy Foote, Bob Koff, Bill Allen and his wife, Jennie McCormick and Grant Christie, and many others. It was the start of what would become the most memorable astronomical gathering I ever attended.

Saguaro National Park in Arizona

En route to Big Bear Lake. Left : Joe Patterson (CBA New York), Right : Berto Monard (CBA Pretoria).

The 3 hours Peranso workshop on Tuesday May 22nd attracted over 40 attendees. Judging from the feedback forms and talks, the workshop was rated highly successful and productive, so my evening and weekend efforts had finally paid off. I was very pleased by the many fine reactions I got during and after the workshop, and was much surprised to learn how frequently Peranso was referenced during the presentations in the subsequent Symposium.  

Wednesday and Thursday featured an outstanding series of SAS and CBA presentations by amateur and professional astronomers, on a wide variety of topics, ranging from exoplanets, over asteroids, gamma-ray bursts and cataclysmic variables to NEO’s. The organization of the Symposium was truly perfect, and the overall quality of the presentations was outstanding. Add to this a wide set of networking and late-hour socializing opportunities (topped with a first-rate New-Zealand wine – thanks Grant & Jennie !), and one will easily understand that the SAS/CBA 2006 meeting soon turned into a treasured experience. I had developed high expectations before the meeting, but reality by far exceeded my dreams.

The CBA gang at the SAS 2006 Symposium on Telescope Science

Finally, I wish to thank the SAS Organizing committee (Lee Snyder, Robert Gill, Dale Mais, Jerry Foote, Robert Stephens, Dave Kenyon and Brian Warner) for the outstanding meeting, and the CBA participants for the many great moments together. To be repeated …





Copyright © 2006 - Tonny Vanmunster.