Pacheco Star Party a Go - gone!

by Matthew Marcus

It was moderately successful. I had a couple of families stop by and I showed them what eye candy I could given the moon and moisture. This ended up being mostly open clusters and of course the big planets.

The ranger wanted to see the Andromeda galaxy, which was up but low and close to the moon. I hope he wasn't disappointed. The seeing was on and off, but when on the big planets were real crowd-pleasers. Early on, before customers came, there was a nice shadow transit on Jupiter. Of course, Saturn was a total winner. The Orion Nebula was also well-received. I think the idea of a place where stars are being formed is something that non-technical people can easily understand and in which they can find drama. It's harder to explain that the dim fuzzy they can't quite see is actually a grand aggregation of hundreds of billions of stars.

People had real trouble seeing bright galaxies such as 2903 and the Leo Trio. What was obvious to me was pretty much invisible to them, which illustrates how much of a learned skill it is just to see this stuff.

One set of kids were home-schooled, and this outing counted as a field trip, thus saving them a day of school. One of them was going to write a report about constellations. Too bad I didn't think to point him at books like H.A. Rey's and Turn Left at Orion.

The temperature hovered in the high 30s and the humidity at 98%. This caused my C8 to dew over even with the Wagner dew-shield, so I ended up leaving early (11:30). Even so, I survived longer than half the participants. Even when the moon went down, the sky didn't seem to get much better. I imagine that a warm, dry, laminar flow moved in an hour after I left and wiped the sky clean :-)

Anyway, I was glad to show a few people some nice sights and "pay it forward" as the movie title had it.