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The 2005 RTMC Astronomy Expo is Almost Here!
By: Barbara Toy
May 8, 2005 3:34AM PDT
Views: 6706

For those who haven't yet experienced RTMC, here's what you can expect (and why you should go). This is an article I did for the Sirius Astronomer last year, updated.

The 2005 RTMC Astronomy Expo Is Almost Here!


Memorial Day weekend is memorable to the local astronomical community – and to many visitors – as RTMC time.  This year, the dates are Friday, May 27, through Sunday, May 29.


The event now known as the RTMC Astronomy Expo started life as the Riverside Telescope Makers Conference.  Telescope making is still important, and RTMC is still a great place for buying telescope-making equipment and supplies as well as showing off what you’ve built yourself and seeing what others have done.  But this annual event has become much more than a conference of people interested mainly in telescope building… if you’ve never gone, you should go at least once, to see what it’s all about.  To do it justice, you need to stay awhile – you’ll find plenty going on to make your time there interesting! 


Friday is the biggest day of the swap meet part of the event, but you’ll find people selling off their unwanted equipment of all sorts on Saturday and Sunday, too, especially early in the morning, when they can tempt the folks waiting in line for breakfast.  There are a lot of commercial vendors, of course, and some of them use RTMC as a good place to unload things that have been piling up in their warehouses or that may be a bit shopworn.  And there are club booths selling things, too – like ours.  RTMC is known as a great astronomical shopping event, and a lot of conversation you hear between attendees is about the wonderful bargains they found, or that were snapped up by someone else.  (Tales about bargains don’t end when RTMC is over for the year, and it’s remarkable how some bargains improve with age…)


You’ll also see a number of distinctive telescopes that return each year, most of them large or (in the case of one refractor of note) very long – if you’re there for the star parties on Friday and Saturday nights (by Sunday night many have left), you can check out the views through them, as most are available for public viewing.  The star parties give you a chance to look through a lot of different telescopes, and, in addition to the array in the Telescope Field and other areas, there are usually two telescopes in the observatory on the site running – the last few years, these have been operated by OCA member Bill Hall and his team of volunteers.


If you look carefully all around the site, you’ll find a number of “home made” telescopes that are competing for awards in various categories – reassurance that telescope making is alive and well!  Check them out, and talk to their justifiably proud makers, especially if you’ve never thought about making a telescope yourself.  You’ll be amazed at what you can learn from them, and you may get some ideas you’ll want to try out on your own equipment. 


There are talks on a lot of different topics all day on both Saturday and Sunday, with schedules of speakers and topics posted.  Other regular events include a tour of a scale model of the solar system, to help give people a better idea of just how big and how empty it really is, tours of the Big Bear Solar Observatory, family activities such as archery and swimming, and, of course, speeches and awards after dinner on Saturday and Sunday, followed by the famous RTMC raffle. 


The raffle is one ticket per person (children get different tickets), which are given out after dinner, and things become quite competitive between the people in front, the people in back and the people inside the main building, with everyone hoping to win something, but most particularly the Grand Prize (usually a very nice telescope both nights, and OCA members have won some in the past – Roger Cotton won the grand prize two years ago).   So, bring a lawn chair and join the truly cool OCA members in FRONT of the Dining Hall and prepare to cheer on the winners from “in Front”!  You could be one of them!


Ultimately, though, the most important part of RTMC is the people.  The weekend is always rich in opportunities to catch up with old friends and meet an incredible array of new people.  It’s a great chance to expand your circle of astronomical friends and acquaintances – and RTMC is close enough to be an easy trip yet far enough away to take it out of the realm of ordinary experience.


The usual time for the OCA group photograph is 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, so, if you’re anywhere in the vicinity around then, please come to the front of the Dining Hall, the building where the talks, the meals and the hot chocolate are all located.  And, if you spot any other members on your way over, bring them along!


There’s a lot more planned for RTMC this year than I can talk about here.  For the “nuts and bolts” of the event (directions, price, accommodations, etc.) as well as general information, check the RTMC website: http://www.rtmcastronomyexpo.org/.  We should have brochures available at the May general meeting, for those who may not have been able to get the information by other means, or you can contact Robert Stephens, 8300 Utica Avenue, Suite 105, Rancho Cucamonga, CA  91730, (909) 948-2205, registrar@rtmcastronomyexpo.org.  And, for more general information about what goes on and what to expect, you can always ask those of us who’ve been there before – some club members have gone pretty much every year since it started, 36 years ago.


RTMC comes but once a year, so if you want to join those whose conversation in the coming months will be enriched with references to who and what they saw and what they did (and what they bought) at RTMC – here’s your only chance for 2005!  And – while you’re there – remember to stop by the OCA booth and say “hi” to the volunteers who are running it.  If you’ve got any spare time, we can generally use some help, so don’t be shy about volunteering (it’s a great way to feel at home there and to meet people, too!).


I hope to see you out there!

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