Houge Park star party last night...

by Mark Wagner

I am sure everyone that attended will agree, last night was fun at Houge Park!

There were a lot of scopes set up, including some by first timers to the place.

Rashad came down from SF and brought his "new" Tele Vue Genesis. Rich had a nice AP set up. There were several Dobs and SCTs and an assortment of refractors. Phil C was entertaining the public with moon TV, and later on switched over to the Jupiter channel. Phil T was showing spectral absorption lines in bright stars using a Rainbow Optics diffraction filter, which was fun!

For such a chilly night, I was amazed at the number of visitors we had. I don't know if it is true, but it seemed to me they were a more tuned in group than we sometimes get at Houge... perhaps it is those with sincere science/astronomy interests that show up when its cold, compared to the summertime crowds.

The discussions between amateur astronomers and the fun public, ranged from supernovae to stellar evolution, to why we don't "fly" off the earth when looking through the telescope at the moon and other objects (this was an "astral-projection" dialogue).... the answer was, or course, magnetic boots.

The seeing was at times quite good, especially earlier on in the evening. I had a neat view of Comet.... uh.... Neat. A very bright coma and easily detectable tail. M42 was showing beautifully even with the moon out... a great object to show the public. Eta Cassiopeia was a popular double star, the coppery companion provided a dramatic contrast with the creamy white primary. A big show was Io's shadow transit on Jupiter. We also looked at a number of open clusters... M41, M35, M47, M46 was fun... trying to bring out the planetary. Kevin S reminded me of NGC 2169 (the "37" cluster) in Orion. We tracked it down and enjoyed the oddity of a cluster that looks like a number.

Things slowed down after 10:00, with only occasional arrivals to look through scopes until about 11:00.

Lights went on shortly after 11:00, and Houge Park returned to being a teen hangout about the time we departed.

We finished up talking with Mike Koop, who, BTW, is looking for good candidates to fill two upcoming SJAA board vacancies. I think Mike is the hardest working man in amateur astronomy (delegate, Mike!).

It was a very enjoyable evening last night. I'm already looking forward to next Houge... and bringing a new scope!