by Bill Chandler
Anyway, I drove to the top of the ridge near my home (In EL Dorado Hills). This is 'officially' known as Serano (yes, that overpriced neighborhood with the light polluting streetlights <grin> At the top (pas the club house) there is a NEW housing development where they have leveled the ground for all the homes, but no buildings, have been erected (yet). The eastern horizon is EXCELLENT from here (not for long though).
I setup my 2 binoculars on tripods (12x60's and 20x80's) at 7:45. I also brought along chairs for more comfortable viewing. :-) It was still very light outside, but I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the moon rise around 8:05. I also noticed quite a bit of haze getting thicker as one approached the horizon. This band was visible for approx. 10deg from the horizon. :-(
As Moon rise came and went (with no sign of the moon) I started to doubt my homework earlier in the day (did I mis-read the Skymap Pro data?) As 8:30 approached (with no visible sing of the moon) a number of other people began to show up. Being the only [person around with Bino's and tripods, I quickly became the center of attention (and questions). I didn't really expect this to happen, but it was pleasant to speak with the non-observing public and point out Jupiter (now showing itself high overhead to the west) and Saturn lower in the west.
At 8:45 a young boy shouted "I SEE IT!" At first I thought he was just kidding, but given the gift of youthful eyes, his announcement was soon confirmed by others (including myself), just barely making out the upper left edge seeking out behind the thick haze. The moon was already 8 to 10 deg above the horizon. That was unfortunate, because it would've been quite stunning to see an eclipsing Moon rising (given the optical magnification effect of earth atmosphere.) Oh well, next time. ;-)
At first, it was difficult to focus the binos' on the surface. The haze made observing very difficult. However, as it rose higher, major improvements were made. :-)
Everyone in attendance took turns at each bino, each uttering various adjectives (WOW, GREAT, FANTASTIC, COOL, etc). One, that caught my attention, was from a small lad of 10 years. His favorite term was "THAT's TIGHT!" Funny. :-)
As people looked at the moon and talked among themselves, I was busy giving 'elementary' astronomy lessons. I was pointing out major stars (Capella, Polaris, Arcturus), constellations (Ursa Major, Leo, Gemini) and the planets (Jupiter and Saturn). I mentioned to one lady that you can see the moons of Jupiter with Bino's. She was amazed. So I re-aligned the 12x60's on Jupiter. All 4 moons were visible. 2 on one side and 2 on the other (which was which, I was not sure at the time). But it was a very pretty sight. This too caused a lot of 'WOW's' and 'COOL', responses from the public. That was fun.
We continued to watch the moon as earth's shadow passed across it face. This was a real treat and I was glad the weather cooperated for this event. I'm looking forward to more observing later this month. :-)