I had a public open night scheduled for July 12 and was, once again, worried over weather. The forecasts and the existing conditions called for mostly cloudy skies all night with a high chance for rain. Just when I was about to cancel due to cloudy conditions reality set in. Breaks began to appear in the clouds at about 8:00 PM and I couldn't take the chance that people might show up to see the Moon through a hole in the cloud deck. I headed to the observatory and arrived a little after 9:00 –our announced start time– to find a family of four waiting at the door. No sooner had I uncovered the telescope and opened the dome than the clouds began to break. At first we grabbed a few seconds of viewing at a time through passing holes in the clouds. Soon, however, the clouds scudded away to the east and we had a clear view of the waxing gibbous Moon — our main subject for the night. After the family left there was a quiet period when I played with my camera once again to grab a few afocal shots of the Moon as I did a month earlier.
I put the camera away as more people began to arrive. We viewed the Moon at about 30X through the excellent vintage eyepiece and again at about 100X through a modern Plossl eyepiece. Later we waited for Jupiter to rise in the southeast above the neighbor's trees. Those were awkward moments waiting but those who stayed were rewarded with very good views of the huge planet. At 100X we could make out two major cloud bands, perhaps a bit of detail in the atmosphere around the bands, and the four Galilean satellites arranged to one side –on the right, as seen through the eyepiece– in two pairs.
In all 29 visitors came to the Observatory. The clear sky was a welcome surprise and I was glad I trusted my instincts and made the trip to Hiram; I was going to cancel. The last visitors left at about 11:10 and I, sweating profusely in the warm (~ 80 F) and extremely muggy atmosphere (ground haze and mists, heavy dew on everything), was happy to close the dome and head home in an air conditioned car! By midnight the sky had become 100 percent overcast once more and rain developed overnight … that part followed the experts' predictions!
We slept in –thank goodness– and got around at a leisurely pace. I made us veggie omelettes for breakfast. The day dawned cloudy and wet so we headed out for a visit to University Circle and for some museum time. Our first stop was the Cleveland Museum of Natural History where they have been featuring an exhibit on the prospects and search for extraterrestrial life. It was good but aimed mainly at children, I think. Some nice displays, though. Lunch was hummus and pita at the museum's cafe: super-charged with garlic. Whew! Then on to the newly re-opened galleries at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The museum is currently undergoing a major renovation and expansion. As the day went on, the sky cleared and the air lightened. We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon of clear, blue skies and pleasant atmosphere. I won't be able to do any astronomy tonight –my paying job demands me to be awake during the day– but I still appreciate the change in the sky and weather.