CAO 2013 Spring Work Party Report

CAO Work Party 2013 Silhouette

Could it have been a more perfect weekend at the CAO Spring Work Party held at the Toronto Centre’s E.C. Carr Astronomical Observatory in the Blue Mountains from May 24 - 26, 2013? 

Well, maybe if the weekend was new Moon instead of full Moon but other than that, it was indeed perfect. The weather forecasts called for cool days, cold nights, and clear skies throughout the weekend and Mother Nature delivered with comfortable working conditions and no bugs.

The astronomy gods told us to look for the triple planet conjunction to the west on Friday and Saturday nights and we were treated to spectacular sunsets followed by stunningly clear views of Venus, Mercury and Jupiter. We got together with old friends and made new friends during the weekend as we laughed, worked and played side by side, and we broke bread together enjoying the gourmet cooking and baking from our able chefs. The Spring Work Party is a prelude to the Toronto Centre’s Open House and Awards Picnic held at the CAO and so we clean, primp and prepare the site for our annual social event. So what did we do?

Friday started with Katrina Ince-Lum, the CAO site supervisor for the weekend opening the facility mid-afternoon and mowing part of the north lawn to prepare the grounds for some members who were planning to camp for the weekend.  Lora and Phil Chow arrived soon afterwards with all the food and drinks for the weekend. Throughout the rest of the early evening, the volunteers trickled in, and got settled into bedrooms, the Great Room in the basement (big communal sleeping space) and tents. Tony and Trevor Horvatin arrived late in the evening loaded with work party tools, supplies and a BBQ generously donated by Leslie and Costas Harvey. 

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CAO Work Party 2013 Dog
CAO Work Party 2013 Dog

Katrina operated the Centre’s C14 SCT telescope atop of the Paramount ME and conducted a sky tour of planets, double stars, star clusters and galaxies for the assembled volunteers while others took advantage of the clear skies to image or run their own telescopes on the observing pad.  Friday would to be our night for chillin’ out at the end of a work week.

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CAO Work Party 2013 Table
CAO Work Party 2013 Table

Saturday morning we awoke to frost on the ground, the smell of coffee and breakfast cooking. Lora was up at 6:30 am preparing Eggs Benedict, sausages, and fresh fruit salad. After breakfast, the CAO co-chairs and work party organisers Blake Nancarrow and Tony took us through the extensive job list.  There was something for everybody and we quickly got to it. With everybody pitching in, we accomplished the following tasks:

The usual spring opening ritual comprising storm windows and doors removal, lawn mower tune-up, oil change and mowing the approximately 2 acres of grass, edges weed-whacked, red solar lights installation along walkways, picnic tables water-sealed and placed about the property, back-up generator blanket circuit de-energised, furnace filter, smoke alarms and fire extinguishers checked, and all brick and concrete plates on the observing pad, observatory patio entrance, around the house and basement door walk-out weeded (a huge job in itself).

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CAO Work Party 2013
CAO Work Party 2013

In the house, walls, artwork and fixtures were dusted, all the carpets steam cleaned, and the basement kitchenette was cleared out in preparation for conversion into the Orion Room. 

In the Orion Room (a new dormitory-style room in the basement adding three private sleeping quarters for members), work was done insulating, painting, preparing for the ceiling tiles, wiring, and a mattress pen was constructed to hold and organise extra mattresses.

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CAO Work Party 2013
CAO Work Party 2013

A new vent in the hallway was installed, the air conditioning coil (part of the house HVAC system) was packed and moved to the garage, clean-up of the library area continued, and an old sofa was removed out of the library and replaced with a newer one. 

The library was tidied and all archival materials sorted to shelving and a computer station chair donated by Mohammad Elmoselhi was set up at the CAO.

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CAO Work Party 2013
CAO Work Party 2013

On the exterior of the house, the deck was power washed, the south screen door replaced, the back (south) deck repaired and a clothesline installed.

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CAO Work Party 2013
CAO Work Party 2013

In the garage, two additional outdoor GFI outlets were installed, hooks installed on the east wall and garden equipment hung, the wireless router relocated, and the west wall was cleared and readied for building up to three lockers that will be made available to members who wish to rent them for telescope storage at CAO.

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CAO Work Party 2013
CAO Work Party 2013

In the Geoff Brown Observatory (GBO), the wireless router and antennae were suspended to improve signal reception throughout the property and maintenance completed on the retracting roof mechanism.

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CAO Work Party 2013
CAO Work Party 2013

There were a number of special projects on the go outside on the grounds.  The picnic tables were repaired, a large stump near the observatory platform west of the GBO was dug out, a sapling hiding the 18th Side Road street sign on the way to the CAO was cut down, large rocks on the road to CAO moved aside, a new garden wagon assembled, the tarp/canopy reinstalled under the pergola and a run to the local dump with the old sofa and other garbage from the clean-up effort.

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CAO Work Party 2013
CAO Work Party 2013

During Saturday mid-morning, Lora came by to all the workers with liquid refreshments and warm home-baked blueberry and bran muffins and again in mid-afternoon with bars, brownies and drinks. Ralph prepared a sandwich lunch for all the volunteers and a wonderful chicken cacciatore on penne with garlic bread and Caesar salad for dinner. Dessert by Lora at supper were two cakes – red velvet with cream cheese icing and chocolate carrot cake with a mascarpone icing.

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CAO Work Party 2013
CAO Work Party 2013

Saturday night, we were once again treated to another night of clear skies and great observing. As we did on Friday night, we congregated for the triple conjunction and then on the observing pad and in the GBO for deep sky objects. Katrina even managed to point at a number of Virgo galaxies before the Moon rose. 

Those of us who were too tired for astronomy relaxed in the house and enjoyed a movie in the living room on the monoplex. Sunday breakfast consisted of sausages, eggs, toast and fruit salad before finishing off some of the projects noted above.

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CAO Work Party 2013
CAO Work Party 2013

A lot was accomplished during the work party weekend by our volunteers. The Carr Astronomical Observatory is one of the jewels of the RASC Toronto Centre and the envy of all other RASC Centres. 

We have the following members to thank for all they do before, during and after the work party: John Bajur, Thomas Bernard, Doug Carman, Ralph Chou, Lora and Phil Chow, Gilles and Nicole Gaudet, Denis Grey, Risa Horowitz, Tony and Trevor Horvatin, Katrina Ince-Lum and Fred Lum, Dietmar Kupke, Tom Luton, Steve McKinney, Ostap Mojsiak, Blake Nancarrow, Joel Parkes, and Niels Walkau. 

Our little piece of paradise and more perfect weekends to come are possible because of you.

More pictures of the work party have been posted in the members-only Yahoo! Group online.

Sunset silhouette photo by Katrina.
Photos by Ralph, Steve, Lora, and others. 
Reported written by Phil.