We just received the Costco Christmas sales mailer. Every year there is a telescope featured, promoted as a gift. Not just slightly featured either, but included on the front page of the flyer, the first thing you see when you pick the mailer up.
Those of us with long practical experience just cringe when we see such telescopes. These cheap telescopes are usually more of a frustration to would be amateur astronomers than useful. Cheap ‘scopes have deterred more folks from the hobby than we will ever know.
Calls from the summit facility are not exactly what I want to see on my phone display on Christmas Eve. Heather was very apologetic about calling, but she had no choice, the Keck 2 dome would not rotate.
Less than a minute into this conversation I realize the inevitable… This was not going to get fixed over the phone, I would be spending Christmas on the summit. I call John who is already scheduled to go up for the day… Pick me up on your way out of the village. 7am? I will be out front.
It was just before sunrise that we drove up the mountain from Waikoloa, the sun rising over the shoulder of Mauna Kea, casting long crepuscular rays into the sky. It is a beautiful Christmas morning, a clear sky, the snow capped summits of two volcanoes looming overhead. Heading to work on this morning is a bit surreal, while at the same time seeming a bit more festive for the snow.
Residents of Waimea know to brace for the Christmas Parade. For an evening half the island population descends upon this little town. Days ahead of time, the parking spots along the street, far from the store’s front doors, normally empty, will be full of pickup trucks as people stake out their favorite spot to watch the parade.
The main road closes at 5:30pm, important to know as this closure cuts the ring road around the island. By this time the crowd has grown to a size that is quite surprising on this island. Are there actually that many people here?
This year Keck and CFHT cooperated on a float. Really a decorated truck like most entries in the parade. We handed out glow sticks and glow bracelets to the kids along the parade route. walking along with the group is fun, of course I have a camera along.
After the parade it was time for a star party… Only one issue… Calling it a star party is a bit of a misnomer. There were no stars, there were no telescopes. Two ‘scopes did get set up briefly, then the rain began. With the ongoing winter storm there were only a few glimpses of the moon through the clouds, otherwise nothing to see. The telescopes stayed in the vehicles.