Yes the Summer Starwatch at Novins Planetarium in Ocean County College N.J. came off as planned last Friday night. Although the sky was bad the turnout was good and everyone had a great time. About 20 ASTRA members participated. I didn’t do a complete survey of the equipment on hand so here’s what I remember: 13" home made truss mounted Dob, 12" Meade LX200, 9 1/4" Celestron SCT, 8” SCT, several smaller reflectors, home made 4” APO refractor, 80MM short tube refractor, a spotting scope and some binoculars both mounted and hand held.
About 150 guests arrived just before dark. It was a night of looking at the moon, then clouds, then clouds and moon, then moon, etc. It was disappointing but fun anyway. Later, about 10:00, Mars became visible. Most guests wanted to see Mars. It’s pretty common knowledge among non-Astronomy people that something’s up with Mars this year. Everyone was asking, “Will we see Mars tonight?”. When we got our first look, you could tell if the sky cooperated, it would be spectacular. But alas, it wasn’t to be. At low magnification it looked like an orange disk with some dark areas, no white cap. At higher magnification, if the sky settled for second, you could see the white cap (just barley) and the darker areas became quite apparent. This view was very pleasing to the guests. If your seeing it for the first time, that looked pretty good. The sky was so bad, with magnification over 300x, Mars was pulsating. Growing bigger and smaller as you watched it. Trying to focus was a joke. So we went back to low magnification and that worked out OK. With the observing not up to par, questions from the guests were at maximum. “Will we see Mars?” was the question of the night, followed closely by (what else), “What power is that Telescope?”. “How much was that Telescope?” came in third with, “Is this yours?”, “How often do you have these parties” and “Why doesn’t that Telescope I bought at Toy-R-Us work like this?” all being very popular questions. Everyone was very attentive to our guests. In spite of the bad sky conditions, I think both the members and guests enjoyed an astrnomical evening together. Thank you all!