Saturday, August 1, 2009

Short But Good Night at Houge Park

I arrived at Houge Park in San Jose from Aikido, for the SJAA's in-town public star party as twilight was setting in. I quickly collimated my 10" f/5.7 Dob, it was almost dead on and required almost no effort. How nice!

The turnout was good, in terms of both telescopes and visitors. Of course, most scopes were aimed at the moon, which was getting larger by the minute, well past first quarter. I showed it briefly, noting a good view of the fully lit Alpine Valley, some great Mare ringed by sharp mountains, some nice large craters showing with ejecta rays, but soon decided to offer views of targets less obvious.

I began with Alberio. The colors were quite vivid tonight. I was showing it at 120x. I'd ask people the usual questions; what colors do you see, and which of the two stars should live (last) longer? Its always good for conversation, gets them thinking.... helps bring astronomy "to earth".

I moved to Epsilon Lyrae, the Double Double. It was splitting at 120x, but people were having difficulty really seeing it cleanly. I went to the 7mm and, at 207x the views were excellent; the stars separated into four very clean points. Again, people were amazed. They'd look at the "pair" in my 9x60 finder, then again in the eyepiece. The seeing was fantastic.

A quick trip over to the Ring Nebula, which was fairly washed at 120x out in the bright moonlight, and I decided it was either a moon night, or one for good double stars.

That said, my next target was M3, which I picked up in the finder next to a bright star. The view was actually quite good at 120x, even though it was nothing like the great view it can be, again due to the moonlight. But, it was obvious, and if you took a moment at the eyepiece, it was obvious that the "haze" was actually a great buzz of stars. Nice view. People "got it".

After that, another nice double. I headed to Izar in Bootes. At 207x it was a nice split, with its obvious magnitude differences, and striking colors. I stayed there for a while, as people would look, move the scope, ask questions about how I made it, and how it worked.

By 11 pm, the atmosphere had condensed, and clouds were quickly erasing the sky. It was getting chilly too... so time to pack up, head home, have a glass of wine and think about the next time out.

All in all, it was a fun night, and a great start to a full weekend.


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