The AAA Makes Its Presence Known at the Annual Springfield Convention 

The 2023 Stellafane Convention presented by Springfield Telescope Makers celebrating their 100 anniversary of their existence, commended the attendees at this Convention for making it a huge success.  This approximately four-day convention encompasses lectures, telescope competitions and workshops that include mirror grinding.


The convention kicks off Thursday evening with the Hartness House lectures that take place in the town of Springfield, Vermont. There being a big cloudburst of rain on Friday morning, making the grounds muddy but mostly sunshine followed thereafter. The convention did have two wonderful nights of observing on Friday and Saturday. [Milky Way photo (1) – TH]

The Heavens
George Hripcsak and his coronagraph

Bart Fried (Exec AAA-VP) gave a ten-minute Friday night “tent talk” describing the Pioneer Works observatory project in Brooklyn NY.  All the Friday night talks are limited to ten minutes, and any number of attendees can speak on just about any topic.


Katherine Troche (Operations AAA-VP) had a table setup on Saturday morning during the infamous Swap table meetup.  She also gave a 10-minute talk about the Eclipse Ambassadors program on Friday evening. 

Michael O'Gara

Those who brought homemade telescopes displayed their instruments on Breezy Hill by the Pink Club House on the West side of the property.  The skies are exceptionally dark for being only 200 plus miles from Boston or New York City.  [Milky Way photo (2) – TH]

The perfect mirror

Convention attendees can enter their home-made telescopes in the Optical and/or Mechanical competition.  Awards are given for best Optical Performance and for several Mechanical Categories.  If you brought your first homemade telescope and displayed it on Breezy Hill, you got a certificate and your name was shown on the big screen at the Saturday Night Program, with the “First Scope” designation.

Here are the AAA participants for the Stellafane 2023 telescope competition who got some mention or award for their hard work.  Here also is the link for the full list of attendee participants: 


Entrant: Michael O’Gara from Hudson, NY

Instrument: 8in f/4 Newt

Entry: 28  Category: Optical

1st Place Optical Small Newtonian (Tie)


Entrant: Daniel Kirby from Hoboken, NJ

Instrument: 6in f/15 Newt Dob

Entry: 31  Category: Mechanical   First Scope!


Entrant: George Hripcsak from New York, NY

Instrument: 50mm f/30 Coronagraph

Entry: 02  Category: Mechanical

Honorable Mention Special Category


Ken Spencer was also an entrant in the 2023 competition for his Alt/Az Mount instrument in the Mechanical competition. 

Michael O’Gara also had an entry for an: 8-inch f/4.8 Newt — 9-point floatation mirror in the Optical & Mechanical competition.

Also, Steven Bellavia from Mattituck, NY entered his Safe Solar Viewer instrument in the Mechanical competition.

In their own words:    

“As a long suffering mirror maker and telescope assembler, it is with great humility that I share with you all that I won 1st place Optical [category] at Stellafane this weekend.

The scope was my 8-inch F4 made with the STM in 2019. I entered it 2 years ago and it didn’t place, although I was sure it was a very good mirror.   This year was the charm.  I shared in a tie for 1st place with another scope that was a 6 inch F6. Not as difficult as an 8″ F 4, but I’ll accept the judge’s decision on that.  I proudly represented the AAA by wearing my windbreaker with the club emblem on it throughout the weekend.  Thanks to Kat Troche for helping me set up my scopes on the hill last Friday.”  – Mike O’ Gara


“I did enter the coronagraph in the mechanical competition, and while it did not receive a prize, it did get an honorable mention, and it was fun to be recognized by the Stellafane crowd.  It is amazing how you can meet people at Stellafane.  The big one for me was Jim Daly, who made a large prominence-viewing coronagraph-style scope.  He ground a 6” quartz lens for it, and he cools the back of the scope due to its size.  He has great prominence photos.  I think he is also largely responsible for Stellafane’s spectroheliograph that some of you may have viewed through.  We talked for well over an hour.  He is considering trying for the corona in it, ordering a filter from Andover Corp like I did, but at a different wavelength (Fe X vs Fe XIV).”  – George Hripcsak


“All the entries and displays were amazing.  Stellafane folks are so creative, knowledgeable and talented, as are the STM judges and volunteers.  I was “up on the hill”, near the pink house and the Porter Turret telescope for about 7 hours.”  – Steve Bellavia

"See yonder, lo, the Galaxyë Which men clepeth the Milky Wey, For hit is whyt." Geoffrey Chaucer, The House of Fame, c. 1380.

I had the good fortune of running into Mary Carlson, long time and active member of the Amateur Astronomers Association.  We served on the AAA board together some decade and a half ago.  You never know who you will run into at the Convention.  My son and I had a great time at the campsite with Daniel Kirb and Katerine Troche, later being joined by Rori Baldari and David Kaufman on Saturday evening. And of course, Bart would be seen walking the grounds.


We all pledged to encourage more AAA folk to attend next year’s convention.