I had a super time at RTMC last weekend. Lots of cool people, scopes & good times. I have lots of pictures. Probably too many to post here.
Here's a shot of the observatory's mobile gift shop and some of the crew who helped to run things.
Olivier from Shelyak Instruments was showing off their Lhires Lite spectroscope which gives a fantastic look at the solar spectrum. I have never seen so many absorption lines! They also have some great stuff for amateur astronomers looking to make an entrance into spectroscopy.
Barry Crist makes all sorts of neat model telescopes, including a 1/200 scale model of the Hale. It was at RTMC a few years ago that I first asked him to start making it. He is working on some models for Mt. Wilson now and he and I were discussing some other model options for Palomar that I hope will come to pass.
Back in the olden days RTMC was all about telescope making. RTMC actually stood for Riverside Telescope Makers Conference. Not many people are making their own scopes these days, but there are still a few every year. My favorite was this Victorian "steam punk" telescope made of mahogany, copper and brass:
There are words written on the mirror cover in French, which translate to "Its full of stars." A nod back to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
I was deeply honored to spend some time with Ashley McDermott, seen below.
Ashley is a past winner of the Clifford W. Holmes Award. He told me of the time he visited Palomar as a teenager. The 200-inch mirror had not yet been installed and the concrete disk was in its place. Apparently there were some tests going on at the telescope. The oil pumps were on. Someone was at prime focus. And there was a rope hanging down from the telescope. Ashley, like many teenagers would have, did the obvious. He pulled the rope. This moved the 530-ton telescope (!) and caused much shouting and carrying on by the staff.
At RTMC I gave a talk on the construction of the 200-inch telescope. I showed many of the people, many of whom are long gone, who worked on the telescope and its parts. Ashley attended and repeated this wonderful story for everyone. His rendition of that experience helped to connect past to present. Fantastic.