May 15, 2009: Big Turnout at Houge Park

Mark Wagner

Posted with images at:

Friday evening, May 14th at Houge Park was another good night for "sidewalk" astronomy. Several familiar faces showed up with telescopes, entertaining curious and interested public visitors with dazzling views under steady skies. I've concluded that one would have to make a real effort to *not* enjoy this sort of event.

I started off the evening well before dark, with views of Saturn. I was able to find it in my 10" Dob by looking at where Phil Chambers' GoTo SCT was pointed. The sky was still bright blue, and Saturn was low contrast, but there was no doubt the seeing was very steady. Detail on the planet was stunning, with knife-edge rings and crisp limbs on the disk. Several moons hung off to its side, bright little disks as well.

As dark fell, other targets began to avail themself to us. While the others continued showing Saturn, I turned to M3. The transparency was clearly down compared to the best nights I've had at Houge, but with some coaching about averted vision, some explanation about why our eyes see better in the dark from the sides, everyone was able to resolve the globular.

Looking around, I realized we had quite a crowd. Lines at my telescope and others. People had their children out, college students doing astronomy class assignments, others interested in buying telescopes or a binocular asking questions, seniors out for a different sort of evening. It was a great mix.

People were asking for different targets, since so many telescopes were trained on Saturn. "Show us a galaxy"... so off I went to the Leo Trio. Even though M66 was there, the view was disappointing.... so much glop in the air that transparency was way down (but the goo helped steady the gorgeous views of Saturn). I could only see one of the trio, and had to coach people in order for them to glimpse a dim sliver of light... following two bright stars to all that shown - - - the slash-like core of the galaxy.

Later on, M13 was showing well, the best of the globs, hands down. Lots of stars resolving. Izar, with a 7mm eyepiece was a nice clean spit for a tight double star.

Once the crowd thinned out, it was time to say hi to friends. I was talking with Kevin and Dan, Rich, Bo, Lee, and Phil. Nice group, all out to share their views our little corner of the universe.

Next up, a trip to Wilow Springs, and some real dark skies...

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