Martian Invasion Last Night

by Joe Fragola

I heard Mike Koop mention that he estimated we had about 350 "customers" as Jim Van Nuland calls them. Mike did a scope count and said he counted 30 scopes at Houge Park last night. I arrived at 7:30 p.m. and was able to snag one of the last parking spots at the end of the sidewalk. Like you, I showed other objects until Mars rose high enough for better views. Early on I showed Albireo, the ET Cluster (NGC 457), M13, and then I tracked down Neptune over in the faint Capricornus region of the sky. I didn't bother to show Neptune for long since it wasn't the "featured event" of the evening and wasn't that impressive.

I had my Orion XT10 set up between Kevin's XT10 and Gary Mitchell's 6-inch reflector. The best fun of the evening was when the three of us were showing Mars after 11:30 p.m. I had an unfiltered view with a 7.5mm Plossl, Gary was using a red filter (not sure of his eyepiece selection), and Kevin had a blue filter with a 7mm eyepiece. In between guest viewings the three of us kept popping back and forth between our three telescopes to compare views.

I didn't check any of the online Mars maps prior to last night. I'm about to go check the "Mars Previewer" on the Sky&Telescope Web page now. Mark, can you or any of the other readers of this E-mail confirm whether or not we had the "volcano region" of Mars facing us last night between 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.? I could have sworn I saw a couple of dark circular features that were a couple of the Martian volcanoes. Gary and Kevin confirmed what I was seeing, but I may have talked them into seeing something that wasn't there.

The only disappointment of the evening was that I was hoping Mark would be walking down telescope row with a sampler of Televue eyepieces to try out! ;) I am in the market for a premium eyepiece and had some early thoughts about talking with you Mark, but it was just to darn crowded. I almost snagged you during the couple of minutes you were down at our end of the sidewalk saying hello to Kevin. Oh well, maybe next time. In closing, I'll just echo Mark's thoughts about what a fun evening it was. Truly one of the Houge Park nights to remember.