Houge Park 9/1

by Mark Wagner

It seemed very bright at Houge Park last night with a big 1st Q moon and a hazy sky. We had a good number of amateur astronomers turn out, including Rich Neuschaefer, Mark Bracewell, Rashad Al-Mansour, Dan Wright, Phil Chambers, Howard Riddenaur, Gary Mitchel (sp?)and Jane Smith from Davis, along some others I don't know. What seemed to be missing was much of the public, the turnout seemed low, perhaps a result of it being a Friday night of a big three day weekend. Jupiter was already low by the time dark fell, so the big target of the night was the moon. Seeing was actually pretty good, so la luna was showing nice detail. I had my 10" f/5.7 Dob, and aside from the moon, had good (but not great) views of M13, M15, Alberio and assorted other double stars. We had a nice view of the Coathanger, through my 9x50 finder, and with an old 50mm erfle I hadn't used in years. Later in the evening a police helicopter was flying back and forth, shining a spotlight down looking for something, or someone. Then a patrol car pulled into Houge and the officer turned his spot on us.

Rich and I walked over and were told someone said there were people in the park, and the park was closed at night. We convinced the officer that the SJAA has permission to, and regularly uses the park, about every two weeks. The officer realized this, saying we didn't exactly look like troublemakers, and was about to leave, when Gary ran over telling the officer to turn off his spotlight - which was shining on the telescopes. The officer said he'd be leaving in a minute, which he did, and order was restored. I was home by 11 pm, to surprisingly brighter skies.... I didn't think it was possible, but yes, downtown's skies *were* even brighter than Houge's on a bright night...


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