SOAK! 2016 Looking back by Zoom Newhouse –
A few months ago, I discovered that the theme for SOAK, Portland’s regional Burningman event, was to be SCIENCE! What a great opportunity to bring an outpost of Black Rock Observatory to yet another event. Bought tickets and a camping vehicle pass, and signed up as an art installation. Built a new sign (a smaller replica of the BRO sign we use on the playa). Announced on the Portland Burners Facebook Page. Within a couple of days, the folks building the temple told me that they had wanted to put a telescope on the back deck of the temple, since the theme was going to be SCIENCE!, so I obliged and went to a few of the temple build sessions, and ended up doing the lighting for the temple, and making a whole slew of wonderful new friends.
Since the SOAK folks let me have an art support vehicle, I didn’t end up needing the vehicle pass, so I advertised it on the Portland Burner’s Facebook classified page. I ended up selling the pass to a woman who had decided late in the game to make it to SOAK, and ended up finding tickets. When I met with her to give her the ticket, she told me that her partner had a 16” dob. Well, that’s cool, and I thought it would be a fine idea if he decided to bring it, since all I had was a 10” Coulter and an ancient 8” Celestron SCT.
I got to the event early to help set up the temple and to put up the observatory, which consisted of putting up the sign and setting up the scopes, since I had no building to call an observatory. The next day, soon after the gates opened, I happened across the woman who bought the camping pass, and lo and behold, her partner brought his scope! Alas, he had forgotten to bring the trusses that hold the secondary mirror and objective in place. Within minutes, we hatched a plan to build some trusses out of leftover temple parts and sweat. Four hours and a few beers later, we had a working scope and another new friendship. Although the forecast had been for clouds throughout the event, the skies cleared up and we spent the next four nights showing hundreds of people the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, the craters of the Moon, the Hercules Cluster, the Whirlpool Galaxy, and a host of other celestial wonders. From the observatory’s location not far from the two major burnable structures (the Mothership and the Temple de Cosmoluna), we could be part of the burns while still keeping the observatory open.