The seeing and the starry sky were exquisite Saturday night for our September Open Night. The sky over the village was cloudless and sparkling with diamond stars. The Milky Way stretched broad and bright overhead, arcing half-way across the sky, dust lanes evident. It was the finest sky I've seen in quite some time. All told 49 visitors came, stretched out over the two hours of the event — much better than 49 all showing up at once, which has often happened! The smaller crowds at any given time allowed for better interaction with visitors and gave them the sense that they could take their time looking through the telescope. Several College students were in attendance including a young man from Mexico City. Students rarely show up at these events so it was a pleasure to have them. Three students arrived at the scheduled 11:00 closing time and I spent a half-hour with them… they were excited and enthusiastic about the entire experience. Earlier in the evening a girl, maybe eight years old, was obviously enthralled with her views of Jupiter and the Galilean Moons; she even used a chart I provided at the eyepiece to put names to the star-like dots aside the huge planet. It is extremely gratifying when someone, most especially a child, really "gets" what they are seeing when looking through a great telescope. That young lady wasn't just looking at Jupiter, she was observing! Also featured was the Andromeda Galaxy which filled the field of view with its misty wonder – the light of a trillion stars 2.5 million light-years away! Jupiter was resplendent with not only the dark, broad equatorial cloud bands visible, but other "stripes" could be seen in the temperate zones. I must say, between the excellent seeing and improved tracking of the telescope, I enjoyed the best views I've ever had of those two objects, both at 122X. The telescope's right ascension clutch has been slipping badly. By hand-tightening the clutch I found that the telescope tracked as well as some modern electrically-driven scopes making higher-magnification public views practical and enjoyable. Observing Jupiter was, by the way, greatly aided through use of a neutral density filter — it was difficult to observe without the filter as Jupiter was so very brilliant! It was an excellent night.
Much to my surprise the Saturday night Public Night at the Observatory went very well indeed. The late afternoon skies were light to heavily clouded and I thought if we were lucky we'd have poor views of Jupiter and that's all. After sunset, however, the sky grew clear and steady. First visitors arrived at 7:30 — a full half-hour ahead of starting time — so as soon as I had the telescope uncovered and the dome open, we began. Early viewing of Jupiter was best and, for my first time ever (somewhat embarrassed to say) I saw the Great Red Spot. As the night progressed people came and went. I shared views of Jupiter, the Andromeda Galaxy, and the double cluster in Perseus. We took a break just before 8:30 to adjourn to the front yard to watch for a passage of the International Space Station. A group of about 20 of us watched as the brilliant star-like light of the ISS appeared through neighboring trees, moved in stately fashion west to east high over our heads, sinking and finally disappearing into Earth's shadow. The show took three or four minutes and was very popular amongst our visitors. The last of our 50 visitors left just after 10:00 PM as Jupiter sank behind the trees. Most memorable to me was that Red Spot sighting — not all that distinct but I'll always remember finally spotting the spot!
Note: The photo here came from the NOAA Web page describing Jupiter but fairly represents what I saw.
Saturday's Observatory open night went very well. We had 29 visitors, all ages represented, with a good number of them College students. The last little group, two college couples, arrived just before 11 PM closing. Most visitors got to see the Sagittarius Cluster (M22) which is a beautiful globular star cluster of about 70,000 stars, the Moon, and the Andromeda Galaxy. The Moon is always a big hit — something we see very often but not with the kind of detail we see through a good, big refracting telescope. At one point in the evening I think we had around 22 people in the dome — a 16-foot diameter room — which may be some sort of record for us! The air was cool, the sky was perfectly clear (for Northeastern Ohio) and the atmosphere fairly steady. Got home just before 1:00 AM. In all, a nice night.
It's a beautiful night! The humidity and haze were down, it was nicely cool, and the sky was cloudless. Too bad it wasn't near as nice this weekend. I stepped outdoors at about 10:30, binoculars in hand, and decided to take a look around. The light-polluted sky was clear enough to display a good number of stars, Jupiter, with Antares nearby, shown brightly to the south, and, OH! a single bright meteor streaked north to south as I gazed skyward! Later I believe I spotted a very faint meteor headed in the same direction. Checking out the northeast sky with the binoculars, yes!, I was able to find the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) so we've got a shot at showing it off at the next observatory open house. In the binocular field of view the galaxy was a faint fuzz-ball, rather indistinct in the bright skyglow, but it was there! I was too tired to go to the club meeting tonight and too tired to haul myself out to actually observe.The sky, however, is a wonder to behold no matter how you behold it!