that, although the temperatures are high, the dry Arizona climate makes it seem cooler. Funny, very funny. It was June 15, 2001 and the temperature of about 110 degrees felt hotter than anything I had ever experienced in Michigan - regardless of high humidity levels. Fortunately, we weren't outside for very long before we were instructed to get into the van. We were on our way to the central campus of the University of Arizona to meet the people who would spend the coming week with us. I had been wondering for quite some time what type of people I would find at the camp. There are very few teenagers that I know personally who would even be interested in such a camp. My question was finally answered when we reached the campus of the University of Arizona about half an hour later. There were 31 campers from 21 states and 2 different countries (India and Mongolia). We were a diverse, motley crew, drawn together by our common love of the night sky.
The director of this camp is Dr. Don McCarthy, a professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona. He is quite a character and enjoys running, electronics, and doing liquid nitrogen tricks in addition to sharing his knowledge of astronomy with others. He was the father figure at camp and despite his advanced degrees preferred for us to address him by his first name, Don. There were several counselors at the camp as well, including a number of graduate students, a NASA employee, and some professors from other universities. The van ride to the top of Mt. Lemmon was long and winding (it took about an hour). At 9,300 feet the climate is quite different than the sweltering heat of downtown Tucson. Instead of an arid expanse of sand, I found myself in the middle of a pine forest. We exited the vans and made our way to the dorms. The short hike left all of us breathless. None of us were used to the low oxygen level found at that altitude.
After we had settled in we were given a tour of the area. There were probably about a dozen white domes scattered around Mt. Lemmon. The three telescopes reserved for us were a 60-inch, a 40-inch, and a Meade LX200 12-inch. At the center of all of this was "the Minnesota building." I'm still not sure why it was given that name, but it was where we spent most of our time during the day. There was a lounge with couches and a pool table where we ate all of our meals. A TV, conveniently located in the same room, constantly displayed a video of some sort, usually Contact, October Sky, or an educational astronomy video. In another room was a gym where we heard lectures each day on a vast array of topics, ranging from how to rig a Kodak instant camera to take astrophotos to how the universe was formed.
After watching the sunset we piled into the vans to spend our first night observing with the 61-inch (1.54-meter) telescope, located on Mt. Bigelow, a neighboring mountain peak. The theme that year at Astronomy Camp was "let your mind start a journey to a strange New World" from the Phantom of the Opera song Music of the Night. As campers and counselors alike crammed into the area surrounding the telescope all lights inside the dome were turned off. Don played Music of the Night as we watched the dome of the 61-inch open for the first time. Arizona may not be the ideal place to live, but the night skies there are spectacular. That night an eyepiece was put in the 61-inch and we spent many hours observing. The most memorable view I had was probably of Mars, which was at its closest approach to earth at that time. With the 61-inch we saw both polar caps and could even detect variations in color on the Martian surface.
We headed back to our dorms that night excited for what was to come. Our sleep schedule was ideal for a night owl like myself. We worked until about 4:00 am, got up at noon, and analyzed data and attended lectures during the day. After spending our second evening learning how to operate all of the instruments on the four telescopes