Saturday's Mars Party and Wednesday @ Lassen

by Michael Huster

Last night the Shasta Astronomy Club hosted a Mars Party at the Whiskeytown Lake Mines Trail parking lot. It was by far the largest public star party the club has hosted. It has been in the Redding paper for several weeks AND the planetarium shows for the last two weeks publisized it also. Someone estimated over 300 were there at the peak. Cars were parked for 1/4 mile in each direction from the parking lot. Usually we have around 50 people at most! There were lines of 20+ people at every telescope. Most of us showed double stars like Albireo, globular clusters and nebulae until Mars rose above the trees around 10:15. Even though the atmosphere made for poor viewing that early, most of the public saw the southern ice cap.

Viewing improved as Mars rose. By 11:00 most of the public had left, leaving us "hard-core" observers. We were treated to views of Mars that wavered in and out of focus, but we were able to make out the southern maria and some northern, smaller maria also. A blue filter, like a 80A seemed to bring out the ice cap the best, but the best views of the maria were with an orange filter. I have a 21, but Roger's deeper orange 25 gave even more contrast. I spent most of the time looking at Mars and trying different filters, eyepieces and my Teleview 2.5X. I took some photos with a Nikon CoolPic4300, also.

Later, the "bino rhino" viewers came out as Tom, Eric and Roger played "Who can get the best view" with M13 and the double cluster in Perseus. Bob Thompson ajudicated.

So... Eric Maynes will be in the parking lot at the foot of the trail to the peak of Mount Lassen for a "Mars Party" on Wednesday, August 27th. I plan on being there, too. It is probably easiest to get there by taking 36 from Red Bluff to the south entrance of the park. The parking lot is about 1.5 miles past the Bumpass Hell parking lot. There is a $10 entrance fee, but if you are local, you may want to get the $20 one year pass that is good for both Lassen and Whiskeytown Lake. So if you want to join us, come on up!

BTW, I will bring the fixings for Ibarra hot chocolate!