STARRY, STARRY NIGHT (STAR PARTY) REPORT.
Penn's Store; Gravel Switch, KY
Saturday; Nov 3, 2007
Arrived around 1730; nearly an hour before "official" sunset
however, that BIG hill off to the west hastened our sunset; not a bad
thing except for putting the pressure on us
Tectron collimating folks! Still, we set up, adjusted and
managed to let most of the folks get a glimpse of Jupiter before it
dropped out of view. It wasn't a "good" view due to the low
position/thermals but you could still see the major bands and the
Galilean moons and it was special to those who had never seen it
Bren and I were joined by Mike Wolford (Spencer, IN; Indiana
www.iasindy.org ) with his"new" 22" Telekit
Dob and Dean
from the Blue Grass Amateur Astronomers Club (Lexington, KY) with one
of his many instruments, a 12" Meade Lightbridge Dob. [Dean has a
really neat website (www.doghouseastronomy.com)
with many superb images.] And, I had a terrific assistant in
Chase Blackwell (fellow member of the Red River
Gorge Trail Crew -- check us out at
www.gorgecrew.com) running my 8" Dob.
We did a quick overview and pointed out the summer triangle of
Vega, Deneb and Altair.
By this time, Dean snagged M13 and the show began. Although
we had started with around 30 attendees, the number had increased to
around 60 by the end of twilight and you couldn't count the gasps &
"wows" - a definite shortage of oxygen at the eyepieces!
paused again to follow the "steam" of the Milky Way to the "teapot" of
Sagittarius (which thrilled the youngsters) then traced the steam
across the dome of the night to Cassiopeia, the double cluster and
Perseus, and the show began! Naturally
the Holmes comet was one of the first objects viewed and let
me tell you; binocs are good, 8" & 12"
Dobs are sweet, but you ain't seen it'til
you "grok" it through 22 inches of
aperture!!!! And that was just the start! Ahhh,
the sounds of kids squealing with delight!
The following is a list of objects viewed through SOMEBODY'S scope
(we each tried to look at different things so as to show as many
objects as possible to as many folks as possible.) The Ring
nebula (M57), the Wild Duck (open) cluster (M11),
the Double Cluster (NGC884 & NGC869), M15
(nice globular cluster in Pegasus), the great Andromeda galaxy
(M31), the E.T. cluster (NGC457), Beta
"Michigan Double"), Alpha Lyrae (Vega),
the Blue Snowball (NGC7662), the Veil nebula (NGC6992-both
East and West segments), the Double-Double star (Epsilon
Lyrae) and MARS for those who
stayed to the end! (BTW, thank you Jim Blackwell for
providing headlights to pack up!)
The latter stages of viewing was difficult (to say the least) as what
had started as heavy dew soon morphed into FROST! Does wonders with
telrads and I experienced a major "FIRST"
when my scope plummeted down and would not maintain altitude, as if
someone had placed sandbags on my secondary cage! NEVER have I EVER
had a kitten inside my scope! Seemed that light shield was all dry
and snuggly on the inside! (My tenant evicted, viewing resumed.)
summary, the event was a solid success, especially considering the
temps in the low 30's. We issued nearly 50 packets of data including
Nov charts (www.skymaps.com),
a program (with links) and a page of helpful hints for those wishing
to pursue amateur astronomy. Many good questions were asked,
especially from parents wishing to assist their (excited) children.
The interest of the attendees was exceeded only by the expertise of
my associates AND the best news of all; inquiries have already been
made about next year! Also, Chase B. is to be especially
congratulated as he "found" many of the program objects despite
never having used a Telrad/Dob combo
or even seen a Tirion chart, before
Saturday night! Good Job, Chase -- can't wait 'til you get your
And finally, a HUGE Thank You to Jeanne Penn Lane, current
proprietor of Penn's Store. Please, PLEASE go to the
website above and check it out. This is the oldest country store in
America, run by the same family since 1950. Jeanne had a band, a
bonfire and was the bestest
hostess any star party could ever have! And, pencil in Sept 6, 2008
for the 7th annual Great Outhouse Blowout! You
really don't want to miss this unique event -- and watch the site for
next year's Starry, Starry Night party.
Lacy & Brenda Thomas and "Denebola"
(14.5" Starmaster truss
Dob), representing the Sidewalk
Astronomers of America;