At the invitation of Joe Laurenzi of the Los Osos Public Library, CCAS astronomers held a very successful star party featuring the first quarter Moon and Jupiter. Attending for CCAS were myself with  my 12 “ Orion Intelliscope, Joe Carro with his 11” Celestron, and Tom Frey with the big boy-his 18” Obsession Dob.

We set up our telescopes in the parking lot where Mr. Laurenzi set up tables and provided cookies and cider.  Acting as host Mr. Laurenzi greeted the party attendees and counted at least 50 people. A couple of visitors saw the ad for this event on the CCAS website and drove out from Fresno to attend!!

We had a good mix of kids and adults including several schoolteachers and a fair number of people that had never looked through large scopes before- lots of “Ooohs and Ahhs” Thursday night. It never fails to give a thrill when a youngster gets a good look and rewards us with a “Wow!”. We had lines of people at all three of the scopes. And many of them got to see the same objects through all three to see the difference of performance between different scopes.

Each of us approaches these objects from a slightly different perspective and I think guests come away with a better understanding as a result. While I was giving the constellation tour there was one youngster that was obviously well conversant with Greek Mythology and I let him explain the mythology of Medusa and the “Clash of the Titans” connection- getting the guests participating with us as well as observing.

So what did we see?

Thursday was one of those clear nights with good seeing. The moon was just past  first quarter with the terminator running past the central craters. During the early part of the evening only the rim walls of Ptolemaeus was lit. But barely a an hour and a half later later the sun was illuminating the crater floor with the shadows from the rim wall thrown into sharp relief.  I can visualize Galileo first seeing this in 1609. Alphonsus was spectacular -initially looking like a bulls-eye with only the crater rim and the upper reaches of the central peak lit. Just like Ptolemaeus the floor was illuminated later in the evening. A classic demonstration of the shallowness of lunar craters relative to their diameter. Guests are always surprised at just how shallow these really are. And of course we showed the Apollo 11 Landing Site.

And then on to Jupiter.  This one got more of the Oh’s and Ahhh’s than the Moon. Firstly when people realized that those “stars” were really moons. Then again when they realized that were were seeing the cloud banding on Jupiter. All four Galilean moons were visible with Europa beginning transit just after 8:00 PM. Joe Carro gave a really nice lecture on Galileo and the moons. I put on my astrometric eyepiece and explained how it could be used to measure the size of various features and the planet itself. I had to move my scope a couple of times when Jupiter started to go behind the trees. Joe Carro had the best position for Jupiter. He was still able to see it after Tom and I had to move on to other objects.

We didn’t neglect the rest of the sky either. We all showed the Orion nebula-always a nice view with the Trapezium and the Fishmouth. Hmmm-a new asterism with the Trapezium as a fishhook and the dark Fishmouth taking the bait?

Tom gave a really nice explanation of M42 and his purchase of his 18” because of this stellar nursery. A little later Tom pointed his scope at M82 and the Andromeda Galaxy-always neat things to see.

Joe spent quite a while showing people Mintaka and explaining binary stars and showing the constellations with his pointer.

And I got a three-fer. I showed people Polaris. With the astrometric eyepiece the companion to Polaris was easily visible so I got to plug Tom and Joe’s double star expertise too. And I got to explain Cepheid variables and the Period-Luminosity relation.

I would like to give a thank you to Joe Laurenzi for inviting us to his Library. All three of us had a very good time and so did the guests.

Oh yes- The cookies and cider went fast and I broke the new equipment jinx-at least for one night. My new Celestron Microguide eyepiece came in Wednesday and Thursday was first light!

Clear skies and dark,

David W. Majors

P.S. From Tom Frey: Last night’s star party at Los Osos Library was a great success. Joe, the librarian, said he estimated 75 people, mainly families with small children, showed up. I never even got off of the Moon! I have attached a few photos I took early on during set up but had no chance once folks started arriving to take more. Dave Majors, Joe Carro and I had our scopes out for about 2 hours.

2011-02-14T07:02:17+00:00