A Cold AHA!

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A Cold AHA!

Unread post by Rotorhead »

John W and I were on tap for the AHA (Art, History, and Architecture) Night in New Bedford Thursday, and I found myself hoping for clouds to roll in, rather than stand on a street corner in 20 degree weather. However, it proved to be relatively clear, and of course, once there it was a fun evening.

Wrapped in MANY layers of clothing, and a new fake-fur hat (my last one was so handsome that I think someone stole it. Or Maureeen tossed it in the trash. Whatever) I arrived just before John, and was appalled to see the icicles hanging from the fountain that graces our observing site. My car thermometer said 23 degrees, and the wind was significant. Nonetheless, I began unloading my Celestron gear and setting up only a few feet from my illegally, but conveniently, parked car. John showed up before I was finished, and quickly showed that a Mak-Cas scope on a photo tripod is a lot quicker to set up than anything I own. One trip from his car and he was done. Which is good, since the cold was numbing my hands and John was free to help me put my scope on the mount. Downtown New Bedford is hardly the ideal spot to view from, but at least Polaris was showing and I got a rough polar alignment. By our assigned 6:30 start time, I was ready to go. John, of course, had been ready for about twenty minutes... :|

Almost immediately, we had a trickle of 'customers' which only increased as the evening wore on. Initially, John had been looking at a lovely crescent moon, but that quickly disappeared behind a tree and then a building before I could get set up. That left only Jupiter as a reasonable target for the evening. M31 and the open clusters in the Auriga/Gemini area were all too high for our gear, and the Pleiades were not yet clear of buildings and trees on the east. But Jupiter felt like showing off, and we had a good time watching it. At first, the sky was boiling from the wind, and the views were bright, but not sharp. I started at 48x on the planet, which was showing only three moons and one equatorial belt, but at moments there were gradations on the planet that hinted at more belts and some details. Trying 133x with a nice Orion planetary ep that I got last Christmas, the planet would not come to focus, so I dropped back to the wider view. The crowd began to build, and we had almost continuous lines at both of our scopes. Since this is generally a crowd with zero astronomical experience, even seeing Jupiter with three moons was a thrill. However, we also met a couple of very young students who could actually name the moons and asked us which ones were showing!!! I knew I should have looked them up before leaving home. :oops:

After about an hour, the wind had died somewhat and the sky looked quite a bit steadier, so I brought the 9mm ep back out and got an acceptable view that got better fairly quickly. John wandered over and took a peek, and asked me if I had noticed a small dark speck on the planet. I hadn't, but quickly saw it, and we both agreed that it looked an awful lot like a shadow from the missing moon. Within 15 minutes, there was noticeable movement in the 'speck' confirming that it was indeed a shadow, and probably Io from the speed of its movement. Within a half hour, it had transited nearly half the face of the planet and was so sharp that most of our observers could see it when prompted where to look. Continuing my spiel of 'You'll notice three moons' one young boy said, 'But I see four' and I quickly knocked the kid out of the way and took a look myself.... :P Sure enough, Io was emerging from stage left, and was sharp and yellow in the ep. Very nice, especially since the shadow was still on the planet's face.

I was amazed at how excited the people were when they saw all these events. We had people jumping up and down - grownups as much as the kids - at seeing the shadow and moon at the same time. Okay, I was excited, too, but I didn't expect the crowd to react quite as strongly as they did. It was fun, believe me.

Eventually, we were passing our scheduled time, and the cold was finally penetrating my layers of clothing, and the crowd was slowing to a trickle. After another look at Io for my own edification, we quickly broke down and were on our way before 9. I must say that, despite the cold, it was my best visit to AHA, and the most appreciative crowd. It helped that my new CGEM mount behaved itself wonderfully, and only needed an occasional tweak to recenter Jupiter despite the rough alignment that I was able to get earlier in the evening. I was able to stand back and talk to the crowd without wondering if the target was still visible. Even at 133x, only a quick touch on the keypad every five minutes was enough to keep the planet and three (eventually four!) moons within the field of view.

We estimate that at least 60 visitors took advantage of our presence, and perhaps many more. We actually had a number of repeat visitors, and considering the cold, I was amazed that anyone would deliberately return for another look. So as I thawed out in my car on the way home, I had to admit that I had had a lot of fun during the event, and I'm sure John did, too. Thanks, John for setting this up, and especially for 'spotting' the shadow transit :roll: which made the rest of the evening a bit unique for all who stopped to look.
Bob M
15" f5 Starsplitter Dob/80mm Finder
5" Explore Scientific triplet APO on a Vixen Sphinx GEM
"He numbers all the stars, and calls each one by name." Ps 147:4
Bruce D
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Re: A Cold AHA!

Unread post by Bruce D »

Great report Bob, as I read I kept getting the urge to walk across the room and turn up the heat...
Good effort getting out there in this brisk fall weather, I'm sure all of your 'customers' really appreciate the opportunity to see Jupiter 8)
Bruce D
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Re: A Cold AHA!

Unread post by Pete »

Can't believe you guys actually did AHA! It was down to 17 when I knocked off shortly before midnight.

Pete P.