MEET BIG RED, A CLASSIC DOBSONIAN (page 2)

BIG RED! She's visited some of the Club's most memorable sites! I had her at Steens in 1989, 1990 and at our last official OSP in the Steens, which was 1991 (see sticker on the left, which has been on Big Red's rocker box for 15 years at this point). The 1991 sticker shows the Andromeda Galaxy rising up through the glacially-carved notch on the rim of Kiger Gorge (see winter image of the gorge). By 1993, my friend Brian owned Big Red, and our new site high in the Ochoco Mountains east of Prineville treated us to great views, and to a terrific thunderstorm. The official name of the site is "Indian Trail Springs, " click for much more on the springs. The dead tree showing so prominently was the emblem of OSP until it was apparently destroyed by vandals (see link, (vs. the other story, which was that the USFS cut it down on purpose since it was "a hazard").... Also, from the link, be sure to go from there to Rob Brown's "Dead Tree Chronicles").

John Dobson himself signed Big Red at the Table Mountain Star Party in 1993. I had sold Big Red to my friend Brian that year and he had taken it to TMSP. Table Mountain is the Northwest's largest annual Star Party, usually drawing around 1,000 participants at its 6,200 ft. high site just north of Ellensberg, WA.

"Midnight Encounter with John Dobson"

I have always been something of a wimp as an astronomer. Really heavy telescopes make me feel lazy, and that's why at Table Mountain that year Brian had Big Red, and I had only my little home-built 85mm refractor. But it was my second astronomical weakness that got me into trouble. I've never been among the world-class amateur astronomers when it comes to staying up all night. I had the same problem in college, where I just couldn't seem to pull those pre-exam "all-nighters."

But at Table Mountain that year our second night had truly great transparency, and I was determined to make it to 2 or 3 a.m. By 11 p.m., though, I was beginnng to fade. There was JOHN DOBSON himself nearby talking animatedly with a huge crowd around a big scope.... I felt ashamed. I needed CAFFEINE. Plus, it was really COLD, and I needed something HOT. I fumbled around for awhile in the back of my car searching for my butane stove with my dinky red flashlight (I'd pulled the fuses for the dome lights, of course!). Dang! Curses! I couldn't find it, but my freezing fingers found my back-up stove, a white-gas model by MSR, meant for mountaineers needing to melt tons of snow to make drinking water. This stove has had for years an affectionate nickname among my climbing friends, "Krakatoa." (remember the volcano in Idonesia?)

I slinked away to what seemed like a private spot to light the stove and brew a big mug of CAFFEINE laced with HOT CHOCOLATE. "Krakatoa" has never let me down, it always lights and produces lots of heat in a hurry, I was feeling happier just anticipating the hot drink soon to be in my hands. You light Krakatoa by releasing the fuel valve for a moment and letting a little raw fuel into the burner cup, then apply a match; I'd done it a million times before, but maybe not in the pitch dark by a red flashlight held in my mouth. Something went wrong, I struck the match, being careful to shield any light with my hand, I applied the match tip to the burner cup. Suddenly, the entire observing field light up with an atomic light. It was like a scene from a disaster movie! Krakatoa was burning with what seemed like a six-foot tall pillar of flame. I could see John Dobson and his big crowd nearby; he was starkly illuminated high up on a ladder next to the eyepiece of a big dob. He turned toward me, his mouth moved, I think he said something un-monkly at me in a rather loud voice. I can't be sure what he said, it was all too confusing as I tried for what seemed hours to blow out the curtain of flame erupting from my stove. I slunk away in total shame, labelled by one of astronomy's pre-eminent figures as a light-law violator of the worst kind. Why couldn't everyone just have brushed it off as one of those rare ground-illuminating fireballs?

The End, copyright Bruce B. Johnson 2006-2015

The limiting magnitude of a 10-incher like Big Red is 15.0, quite respectable and capable of bringing in those "dim fuzzies." Tech: Big Red has a 10.1 inch mirror, and is F4.5.

Pictures taken April 2006. Big Red is now owned by Rose City Astronomers, and is an honored member of the Club's telescope lending library!

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Last revised 10/09/2015