While browsing the Star Astronomy club discussion boards I noticed they were hosting a Star Party at Swimming River School in Red Bank. Tonight! I couldn’t resist. Packed up the scope and got there right on time. There was a nice showing of Star members. I’d say about 7 or 8 scopes including 2 Dobs 8” and 10” or 12” not sure, 5” Nextstar, 4 1/2” Newtonian, 4” Genesis refractor (very nice), 80MM refractor and of course my 12” LX200. Hope I didn’t miss anybody. There was an indoor program which I didn’t get time to see. The student were brought out by the teachers and volunteers in groups, classes I guess, of about 30 at a time.
Observing started about 7:00. The main targets of the night were Saturn and Jupiter. Jupiter didn’t come up over the trees till about 8:30. The sky was a bit cloudy around the edges but held up OK for this type of event. Showing people Saturn in a telescope for the first time is thrill for both the new observer and the owner. I just love the “Oh Wow”s and “Is that real?” The new word among the students was “Sweet!” Every thing was “Sweet!” I tried to get off Saturn for a while, most people were saying they already saw it in other scopes. I pointed to Globular Cluster M15 for a while. That was popular. The resolution wasn’t bad. Next I went to the Double Cluster. Got a lot of comments “Boy that’s a lot of stars. Sweet!” . Next I went to M27 the Dumbbell Nebula. Didn’t have time to put the filter on, but I wanted them to see the stars anyway. It was popular but not like Saturn. Things slowed up for a minute so I pointed to NGC7331 and wonderful edge on Galaxy in Pegasus. It was kind of washed out but looked OK since it’s so bright. Just then a whole bunch of kids and parents showed up and wanted to know what I was looking at. They wanted to see anything. I told them it was small Galaxy that looked like the little streaks you see in the background in photographs. They were very happy with that. Much more popular that I expected since it really wasn’t much to see. I had trouble getting off this, there were just so many people in line. I told them to come back and I’d show a much better one. Of course then I went to M31. Not as spectacular as usual. No dust lane visible. But then again we were in the middle of big streetlights and those wonderful flashlights the kids had with the red cellophane falling off. Whose idea was that? Good idea, needs work!
Open clusters are always popular at these events. Especially the ones with good Asterisms. I only got to one NGC457 the DragonFly. Some call it the ET cluster, the Owl or the Airplane. To me it’s the DragonFly. Always popular. We looked at a few more, M37 and M34. I didn’t go to M45, it’s not too impressive in the 12” Lx200. All the kids seem to know about the Seven Sisters from the other scopes. I told them we could only see 2 or 3 sisters in this scope. Jupiter was kind of the grand finally. It came up late so the later crowd saw it. Only 2 moon were visible at the start. But by 9:00, another popped out from behind. Two moons very close to the globe made a very nice picture. The globe itself was not impressive. Very thick atmosphere, it was just boiling. But if you never saw it before, it was still a thrill.
After the students were gone, a few teachers or helpers came out for a last minute look. We stayed till about 10:00 with a few people. Someone found Comet Linear C2001 WM1 but the rumor was, it was not impressive. It was last Friday, but conditions were much better then. I showed one little girl the Blue Snowball, which I had been trying to get to all night. She though it was just of the Sweetest things she ever saw. Don’t know who had a better time, me or the guests. I love this stuff.