We're just back from Starfest. There were two gloriously clear nights during the star party. Kerry's presentation about astrophotography collaborations was excellent and well received. Her images were as breathtaking as usual. We enjoyed views of Comet Garradd through telescopes ranging in size from an 80mm refractor to a 16" Dob. The comet was close to M71 and both objects were visible in the same field. Mike J. was sharing views through his new solar telescope. It was a jaw-dropping experience. In Kevin's words, the view was "ridiculous!'.
Margaret won a book during the door prizes and Mike J. took home a new spotting scope. It seems that HAAers are always winners at Starfest.
Earth's shadow over Starfest
After sending out a notice about opening Binbrook, I went out around 8:30 to open up. David and Tanya had just arrived, and another family showed up a bit later. The skies took a while to clear the day-time heating clouds that had been making some observers nervous, but they finally did cooperate.
The seeing and transparency never did get particularly good, though it was reasonably stable. It didn't look like it was going to be a suitable night for imaging, but good enough for visual. That suited me just fine. I had brought out my replacement 180mm Mak and had wanted to give it a first light test. I've had it for a few months after the insurance replaced it, but I wasn't sure how good it came from the factory. Surprisingly it performed quite well with good star test patterns, sharp resolution of stars in M13, and challenging to split the double-double at 96x but was clean at 120x. It wasn't what I would consider perfect, but better than I could probably collimate it.
An interesting part of the night was that Discovery Channel was there filming an episode of MayDay over by the Wind-Surfing area. Lights and fires were visible a few times. Didn't affect visual work too much, but it would have made the poor imaging conditions worse. Dan from the park staff (who had helped us on the Perseids night) was there all night and he stopped by our area for while to look through the scopes and chat.
Shortly after the others left, Greg Emery showed up so we continued to observe for a while until the conditions started to deteriorate. Around 1am we finally packed it in and took off for a coffee. Not a great seeing night, but fun just the same. I had set some modest goals for the evening and was able to achieve them. So in my books, it was a success (helps to not set goals that are too ambitious LOL).
Waiting for the meteors
Last night's public Perseid meteor watch at Binbrook Conservation Area was our best ever. Thanks to Mario's efforts, we had comprehensive media coverage and a record attendance estimated at up to 800. In spite of the intermittent cloud cover, great views of the moon and favourite deep sky objects were available through the many telescopes set up around the field.
The Perseids put in an appearance, too, with many "ooohs" and "aaaaahs" heard from the crowd throughout the night.
Added August 16 by John Gauvreau
I have received several comments from the public that attended the Perseid Event. All have been very favourable. Here are a few samples:
"3 may not be much, but being my first ever meteor show viewing, the experience was indeed amazing."
"I wish to thank you for the excellent opportunity provided to us by you to observe the Perseid Meteor Shower last night at the Binbrook Conservation Area. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and although we could spot only 3 meteors, it did give us a rare insight into outer space."
"We went and had a lovely evening. Thank you for organizing this event for the public. Wishing you a wonderful day!"
Clearly there were many happy people that night, thanks to the HAA volunteers who put in a lot of work to make that event happen. Thanks everyone!!!!!!
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