When I arrived, Glenn had already set up a solar system walk that disappeared to the far corner of the open field behind the Centre. There were 11 TV tables, some with heavy weights on them to keep them from blowing away, and each having an appropriate write up and photograph of a planet firmly attached with duct-tape.
I set up my binocular parallelogram and pointed it towards Pluto. It was too windy to use Glenn and Gail's 6" Dob but it made a nice addition to the display.
At times, the wind was almost gale-force behind the building. I did not think a wind could blow that hard on such a nice day.
Joe McArdle set up his 4 inch reflector, with a Baader solar filter, for views of the sun, and it was interesting to compare the magnification and contrast of Joe's neutral density filter to Glenn and Gail's Coronado PST.
Joe's telescope was able to track the Sun, while the Coronado had to be re-pointed from time to time.
I noticed that a part of my binoculars has snapped, making it difficult to retain focus on the left eyepiece. I guess this is my chance to adjust it so that the diopter setting on the right eye will allow travel through the range that works for me to use both eyes without the glasses, so it's good news that it broke, in a way.
G&G also had a nice little Starblast which was pointed at the "planets" along the walk. Lots of the kids who looked through it were struck by the fact that "it's upside-down"!
Everyone enjoyed a look at the Sun through the Coronado. I saw a couple of flares, and later in the afternoon one of them seemed to get a twin, nearby. My efforts to try afocal photography through the eyepiece were unsuccessful, although I did get a red circle.
There was some cake to share after everything was done.
I watched some of the raptor presentations. It was amazing to listen to the cameras click when the red-tailed hawk put out her wings to steady herself in the wind.
I learned how to pick up and carry a snapping turtle too.
On the astronomical side, about 100 people had a good look at the sun, and almost that many went for a solar-system hike, and had a look through the terrestrial telescopes.
All were advised what kind of scope not to buy, and many who already had telescopes mentioned they don't use them much because they cannot get them to align.
Many HAA brochures were handed out, and we had a chance to remind people about Astronomy Day on May 2.
NGC 4565 by Bob Christmas
I posted some of the astrophotos I took up at Spectacle Lake in mid-April on my personal website (Click on the title).
Look for the thumbnail pictures labelled "new". Click on any thumbnail to enlarge.
Well, right now there's a beautiful occultation of Venus happening, but all I see are clouds.
A few hours ago my alarm went off and somehow I knew before I stepped outside that it was going to be clear. The air just had that feel to it. And sure enough, there was a sky that was just dark enough to show Arcturus in the west and Vega high overhead. Looking to the east I noticed Jupiter first, shining very brightly, and then, still behind some trees, I spotted Venus and the Moon in the predawn sky. Lovely!
I set us my scope and turned it to Jupiter first. The air didn't seem too steady and although it showed four moons and some bands, the view wasn't great. Perhaps the scope needed a few minutes to cool down (ah, the beauty of a small scope; it really does only need a few minutes and not hours like some larger scopes) but I wouldn't get a second look at Jupiter because already the clouds were coming in from the southwest.
Turning to the main event, I was able to get both the Moon and Venus in my wide field eyepiece at the same time. Both showed the same crescent phase and this symmetry certainly added to the aesthetic value of the view.
The Moon approaches Venus (in the larger image you can see the crscent phase of Venus clearly)
Most noticable was how much brighter Venus was than the moon. This shouldn't be surprising since Venus's albedo (surface reflectivity) is around .7 (making it one of the brightest objects in the solar system) and the moon's albedo is .12 (making it one of the darkest). Still, it was interesting to see it demonstrated so clearly in the eyepiece.
Unfortunately, those clouds just kept on coming, and true to the forecast the sky was completely cloud covered before the occultation started. It is now fully daylight and fully overcast. I'm sure the HAA has proven to be one of the more active groups around when it comes to grazing occultation expeditions, even though many of us have yet to actually see even one! Like Ann said, at least we're consistent. See you at the next one!
Maybe next time!
I posted three of my images on my HAA Gallery from my trip up north last week (April 2009). Links are below.
M81 and M82, by Bob Christmas
Galaxies M81, M82, NGC 2976 and NGC 3077 (excerpt shown above),
More images are coming soon to my own web site. Stay tuned.
11 people showed up last night for observing at the main site. We set up at the boat launch with 3 scopes on the dock and 2 in the parking area. The early arrivals where treated to a view of Mercury before it set. This, for me, was the last planet of the system to view through my scope.The rest of the night was spent helping knock the bugs out of a temperamental goto scope for one of our newer members, and sharing views of the night sky with the enthusiastic gathering. It was a fun time with several of us reconvening at Tim H. for coffee and conversation.
I arrived at Spectacle Lake Lodge on Tuesday, April 14, and I have had 3 clear nights under a dark sky. I have taken lots of images of several deep sky objects, including the open clusters M35, M36, M37, M38, M46 and M47, as well as galaxies M81, M82, M98, M99, M100, M108, NGC 2403, NGC 4214, NGC 4244 and NGC 4565. I will be posting some images soon.
One interesting thing happened when I imaged M38 in Auriga on Tuesday night (the 14th; see image below). I noticed a faint green fuzzy right beside M38, just to the left of the cluster (see image). It turns out, this was Comet Cardinal!
I knew this comet was in the general area, but I didn't know beforehand that it was right beside M38. Talk about a stroke of luck! Comet Cardinal is very faint however, about 11th magnitude. By the way, if you have a BIG scope, or if you take a long image exposure, you might be able to catch it tonight (Friday April 17) when it's right beside M36, another open cluster in Auriga.
While most of the HAA crew were out at Grimsby, a few of us were many miles away bringing a little sidewalk astronomy to the other end of the Hamilton region.
Two telescopes and three HAA members attracted about 40 people outside of a Tim Horton's in Dundas. Jim single handedly managed a group of about 20 at once! Visitors were treated to views of the moon, Saturn, the Orion Nebula, the Pleiades and Castor, as well as whatever star the younger visitors wanted ("I want to see that star!", was heard a couple of times from a youngster pointing at the sky). We were fortunate to have clear skies and a nearby supply of hot coffee and cider. One little fellow even claimed to have seen aliens through my telescope (green ones with three eyes). Although he encouraged me to look and see for myself, the aliens had unfortunately left by the time I got to the eyepiece. Maybe next time!
It was a fun and educational night for all!
A future astronomer gets his first look at Saturn.
A dozen HAA members and more than fourteen telescopes waited for clear skies that never came at Murray Street Park in Grimsby. Members of the public began arriving around 7:00 to check out the telescopes being set up and ask many good questions about astronomy and telescopes.
Views of the Toronto skyline (including the CN Tower) alternated with glimpses of the moon drifting in and out of clouds. A few lucky observers managed to catch Saturn and M42 for a few seconds, but as the clouds gradually thickened, the crowd thinned out and we packed up at about 10:00.
In total, it was estimated that we managed about 50-60 “Galileo Moments” tonight.
Nice summary, Ann - indeed, what promised to be a nice observing session, early on, turned into a telescope clinic instead. There were many questions about the pros and cons of the different styles of scopes on hand, and the Moon made enough appearances that comparisons could be made.
Thanks to all the members and guests who turned out to make this a worthwhile evening despite the clouds.
Jackie F. and I started "The 100 hrs. of Astronomy" a little early.I set up my scope at the Tim's in Dundas at sunset on Wednesday night.I had many curious folks come over to ask what I was doing. I explained to them that it was I.Y.A. and the 100 hrs. of astronomy was to start on Friday and I was concerned that the weekend weather may not be condusive to doing astronomy.I soon was busy showing people the Moon and Saturn in the still quite light sky's. As the sky darkened, I had two very interested gentelmen asking to see more. I made an attempt, and succeeded to show them M42,M45,M44,as well as the Double Cluster.This was surprising, as the light pollution at this location is extremly bad, as is the case with most sidewalk astro sites.Jackie showed up about 8:45 and helped me show many more of the neighbourhood people views through the scope, and answered many questions about astronomy. We packed up about 11:30 and had a total of 50 or so Galileo moments, and many great memories.
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