2020 - A Year We Will Not Forget
Over the past month, I have been thinking a lot on the year 2020. I have heard that it was a terrible year for many, and that we all can gladly kiss it goodbye. I do not doubt that it has been a very hard year for many people, for different reasons. But for us at Frosty Drew Observatory, 2020 was actually quite a fantastic year, and I am not afraid to say it!
The year started off with a grant from the awesome Champlin Foundation that enabled us to purchase an extensive set of brand new data acquisition equipment. This included several cameras, filter sets (broadband and narrowband), calibration and alignment tools, atmospheric dispersion correctors, and more. This was followed up by numerous moon-less nights of stunning viewing, giving us opportunity after opportunity to use our new equipment to capture amazing views.
The global pandemic lockdown had forced us to completely re-engineer our event presentation platform to become capable of hosting a fully online event experience. In doing so, we created a workflow that allowed for thousands of viewers to tune in and catch live views from telescopes that were located over the greater Southern New England area, with the capability to show live views from any telescope word wide. One of the goals of the platform was that it has to have a cost free basis. Well we succeeded in this endeavor, which has been a goal of ours for years now, as well as creating a Frosty Drew YouTube Brand. The final result is a cost free platform that we can spin up at any time, from any location, and bring the amazement of the cosmos to you, in the comfort of your home. Additionally, we now have a working YouTube Brand account, and are starting to develop educational, scientific, and instructional videos about everything astro.
Once the lockdown ended, restrictions forced us to re-engineer our onsite event operations in several ways. When we looked at our processes very closely we inadvertently identified a few areas where improvements could be made. We also had to integrate a ticketing system to meet state requirements regarding visitor numbers and contact tracing. A functioning ticket system has been a goal of our for some time, and though what we developed will not be our final result, we now have a fully working model that is more than adequate for our purposes.
As the year pressed on into mid-autumn, we became quite concerned about the deficit that we were operating on. Like so many other businesses, we had to function with very fiscally invasive restrictions on the amount of and how visitors attended our events. These changes took a large chunk out of our regular donations revenue. Remember, we are a non-profit organization, and donations collected during our events are what pays the bills. This past month we have been finalizing our yearly fiscal data, and I was quite blown away by the sheer number of people that stepped up and donated to Frosty Drew this year, regardless of the amount. It was not only humbling, but a happy re-assurance that we are doing something good. Together with our creative fiscal planning, event operations, and the overwhelming support of so many awesome people, we were able to reduce our deficit to near-2019 levels. Which is amazing to say the least!
Then at the end of the year, the biggest news of the year came in. In mid-November we received a notification that the Champlin Foundation has fully granted us the funds to replace our aging 16” Meade LX200 Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope – the centerpiece of our observatory, with a brand new 24” PlaneWave CDK600 Corrected Dall-Kirkham telescope. This telescope is one of the best out there in this size range! It has always been a dream of ours at Frosty Drew Observatory to someday install a PlaneWave CDK into our dome, and now it is going to be a reality! Not only is this the biggest news of 2020 for us, it’s also the biggest news of the 2000’s! The new telescope will sport an increase in aperture by 8 inches (1/3rd larger), will be fully automated, and will come with a complete new collection of Baader Planetarium Morpheus eyepieces. All the bells and whistles are included, and the views, research, and imaging with the PlaneWave will be mind-blowing and breathtaking! We are hoping to have the new telescope installed for summer 2021 idealistically, with a more reasonable date happening in the autumn. We will host a last light party for our current Meade 16” SCT, close for a couple of weeks to install the new PlaneWave 24” CDK, then host a first light party for the new telescope. This will be a frequent topic of our writings in 2021.
Overall, there have been too many good things that have happened for us in 2020 to list here, like the best naked eye comet (NEOWISE) since 1997 in the North! So here is a huge THANK YOU to all who donated, either funds, equipment, coffee, their time, their sweat, and most of all their love. Also a thank you to the swatters and haters that tried to get us shut down, an effort that resulted in the acknowledgment from the RI COVID-19 Task Force that our operations model is fantastic! We will not forget 2020 and even though it came with tough times, it will always be a fantastic year in our book. So have a Happy New Year from all the astro-geeks at Frosty Drew Observatory and a beautiful 2021.