On Jan 7 Joe Carro and I attended a star party at Trinity Lutheran Church School in Paso Robles at the invitation of Jackie Loper- one of the teachers at this school.

This event was a wild success with 50 or so students and parents in attendance. To start with- this party was coupled with student assignments. The students had studied the solar system and had a series of tabletop displays on the planets. These kids had done their homework properly and were very knowledgeable about the basic statistics of the solar system. In fact – when we were showing the kids Jupiter through the telescopes they were telling us the various facts about the planets including the current moon counts- something I cannot do without my cheat sheets!

For the observing part we had three telescopes set up in the field. I had my 12” dob. Joe had his Celestron goto and one other gentleman had a 4 “ newt on a German equatorial mount. Regrettably – I was so busy myself that I did not get a chance to meet him or look through his scope. Anyway I would like to thank him for bringing a scope. We needed it. There were lines at all three scopes.

We got the evening started off with the waxing crescent moon. The sun had not yet risen over Tranquillity Base. But Mare Crisium was one of the big attractions as I explained that the Sea of Crises was a flooded impact basin. Several of the parents were as excited as the kids at seeing the ghost craters along the basin rim. Petavius with its central peak and rille was another attraction.

Onwards to Jupiter and its moons. A couple of the students got very excited when they realized they were actually seeing the equatorial bands they had only seen in pictures. I explained that the S. Equatorial band had disappeared during the seasonal gap and was gone when Jupiter reappeared in the morning sky. All four of the Galilean moons were visible with Io nearing occultation disappearance. I had my S&T wigglegram with me and I let the several of the students identify the moons for me.

After this the teacher rounded up everybody and we headed for the classroom where Joe Carro held a Q&A session. There were a few stumpers but fortunately Joe and I complemented each other on these. Like I said-these kids had done their homework

After this it was back to the scopes for some of the deep sky stuff. We gave a constellation tour and explained the stepladder for the cosmic distance scale and showed Polaris and its companion. There were some high clouds that affected seeing but we got in several planetaries as well as M31 and M42. M110 was just barely visible. We got in M42 and all four stars of the Trapezium were visible.

I would like to thank Jackie Loper for inviting us for this event and Joe Carro for setting this up .

Clear Skies and Dark,
David Majors

2011-01-18T10:22:23+00:00