HAL NEWS plus Recent Star Party and Outreach Reports
November 3, 2013 Solar Eclipse Impromptu
Well, nine of us showed up at Alpha Ridge this morning to view the eclipse-in-progress. We arrived to overcast skies, then watched them miraculously clear by just before sunup - all but a pesky band of thick cloud perversely hanging about the exact spot over which the sun was to rise. They never did go away, so we missed the first five minutes or so of the event, as we waited and waited for the sun to finally break free into the open sky.
But once it did - spectacular!!! The moon covered about a fifth of the sun's surface by that time (maybe a little more), and there were three groups of sunspots visible as well. We all watched the moon slowly slide off the face of the sun, revealing yet another prominent cluster of sunspots - an added treat!
Garry Ingle and Chris Miskiewicz were both busily taking images of the event, so I expect we'll be seeing some great pictures in the near future.
It was all over by shortly after 7 AM, and home for coffee!
November 2, 2013 Members Star Party
Wow what a night, we had three scopes setup for our final members star party of 2013. The skies did not start to clear until after 8 PM and then we had mostly clear skies and some variable wind. As the night went on the skies darken and the celestial targets were ripe for the picking. We ended the night with sights on Orion up in the East and to return early the next morning to setup with 8 others to watch the solar eclipse.
For the eclipse, the clouds kept us from seeing to much at the beginning but the skies eventually cleared and we were able to catch the moon moving off the face of the sun.
Until the next impromptu!
October 12, 2013 Public Star Party
Well two other members (Joel Goodman & Chris Miskiewicz) also were at Alpha Ridge this evening. In between a few breaks in the clouds we did see the quarter moon and venus. Then the rain started so we got in our vehicles and left for home. Better luck next time.
September 28 Public Star Party
Forgot to keep an accurate count, but I'd estimate there were about 6 HAL members who showed up, and maybe 2 dozen of the public. Intermittent cloud cover all night long, but with constellation-sized sucker holes always around to provide targets of opportunity to look at. Showed off the Andromeda galaxy, M13, the Ring Nebula, The Lagoon, Alberio, Gamma Andromedae, the Double Cluster, plus a few other sights. Also caught sight of Mercury just seconds before it descended into the trees.
Highlight of the night for me was a firm sighting of the Doomsday Star, Gliese 710.
Completely clouded over by 10 PM, and everybody except Chris M. left at that time.
Well the clouds stuck around until the last of my equipment was stowed away into my car then I looked up and the sky was clear but it was over. Bob thanks for a great public event and to everyone else for coming out.
September 22 Solar Max Outreach Event
I'd like to thank Joel Goodman, Steve Jaworiski, and Phil Whitebloom
for joining me at the Robinson Nature Center today for the RNC's
second anniversary celebration. There was a huge crowd, and we shared
views of at least one really nice prominence and a nice sunspot with
somewhere around 50 people before the clouds moved in for good around
Hopefully we'll have clear skies for our next public star party this
coming Saturday night.
August 12 Solar Max Outreach Event
We had a great turn out for Solar Max at the Robinson Nature Center. Jim Johnson, Phil Whitebloom, Steve Jaworiwsky, Joel Goodman, and I all came out with different solar scopes to with some great views of the sun for about 60 adults and children who stopped by to observe as they visited the Robinson Nature Center.
Phil spotted a Large solar flare and filament appeared near the Sunspot AR1818 well we were observing, he switched to a double stack for more detail and we all enjoys the sights from the various scopes. We only had smartphones for cameras but were able to capture photos of the sun and I took a few of the session and posted it to the gallery. Another great day for astronomy outreach, thanks to everyone for attending.
August 10th Public Star Party Report
Garry and Phil were pretty busy that night and I had a chance to talk to the crowd of people. Even with the sky cover around 80%, we had a great night under the stars. Garry was our host and even with out his Large scope the crowds of people were eager to take a look through any openings in the sky.
We watched the Moon and Venus fall to the horizon and then took turns with Saturn, the Ring Nebula, and Albireo to name a few. People were coming and going, most interested in seeing the Perseid Meteor Shower which I think we saw three meteors over the course of the night. We had some new members come out with their scopes and some prospective members bring their scopes out as well.
I estimate about 50 members of the public came out and we had about 7 members and their scopes setup with the big draw being Garry and Phil's telescopes. We even had a little girl bring her telescope out to share views. Thanks to Garry who seemed to never stop that night. People arrived asking to meet the host of the night and Garry once again found himself busy hosting and helping others setup their telescope.
Another great night for HAL
July 6th Members Star Party
As hot as it was during the day, it moderated nicely as sun set,
and there was a cooling breeze and low humidity. We had perfectly
clear skies, good transparency, decent seeing, zero dew, and not too
many bugs. By the time I started packing up around 12:15 or so, the
Milky Way was visible almost into Sagittarius and back to almost
We had about eight scopes and 12-13 people, all of whom
enjoyed a pleasant evening of observing.
Saturn looked nice early on,
and both Dwane and I were able to pump up the magnification well
beyond 300x. That was followed by the summer classics - the double
double (Epsilon Lyrae), M13, M57, and M51, and I heard other people
looking at the Leo triplet. I hunted down a few Caldwell objects,
including the Cat's Eye Nebula (with Dwane's help - thanks, Dwane!) as
well as a couple of Herschel galaxies. I also found NGC6207, the small
and faint galaxy near M13. That was kind of cool; I don't think I've
seen that from Alpha Ridge before.
All in all, a well above average
summer star party at Alpha Ridge.
June 9th STEM Festival
The HoCo STEM Fesitival was a good success. We had a lot of traffic; more than fifty families stop by to find out about HAL and astronomy in general. Chris Todd and I talked to families inside, showing the different types of telescopes, astronomy resources, and answering general questions. Outside, Jonathan setup his scope with a white light filter and the clouds allowed for some solar viewing. Many of the families talked about attending past HAL events and how valuable we are in the community. Thanks to everyone for supporting STEM Fest this year. We should some extra traffic at this week's public star party.
June 1st Member's Star Party
I cannot remember seeing so many stars at Alpha Ridge as I did last night. Yes, the night started off with some clouds but the end was spectacular. About 16 people showed up last night, the time was passed finding Saturn, Venus, and Mercury with binoculars as the sun finished setting. An assortment of galaxies, star clusters, and other deep sky wonders were taken in as the skies darkened. Wayne and I finished around 1:30AM amazed at the change in sky quality and happy with the light breeze that kept the bugs and dew away.
Until the next star party,
May 18th Public Star Party
Well, it was a lousy night for a star party -- totally overcast and a light mist by the time we left at just after 9pm. Thanks to Mike Krauss and Chris Miskiewicz for coming out under these conditions. We did actually have some people show up: about ten people from the Mariotts Ridge High School came by. The five young ladies with them said they could get (needed) extra credit for coming, so Mike and I answered their questions. They took a photo holding my refractor as additional proof they were there. We gave out a few business cards and then left when the park ranger stopped by.
Better luck in June!
May 4th Members Star Party
Despite less than ideal conditions, the Members-Only Star Party on Saturday, May 4, was a big success. Thick cirrus clouds covered much of the sky for the entire evening, but we still had more than 16 people show up with their scopes. Many people were using the night as an opportunity to do some engineering work -- practicing setting up, collimating, aligning finders, using autoguiders and cameras, etc. -- it was a great night for that kind of activity. Saturn was OK later in the evening as it rose higher, but the seeing was not great. Brighter deep sky objects, including a few Virgo galaxies, were observed through the thin portions of the clouds.
It was nice seeing so many members out to use their scopes. Hopefully the weather will be better on May 18 for the next Public Star Party, which has the potential for being very well attended by the public.
Astounding HAL Public Star Party on 4-20-2013 Shatters All-Time Attendence Records
Well, that was quite a star party! As Chris and Bob said, we had at least 150 visitors, so kudos to the publicity department. Fortunately, we also had at least 20 scopes set up, so while I think we were all very busy, the lines were not too long and the public seemed very happy.
For me the observing highlights were the moon (of course), the Europa shadow transit (which was barely visible due to some rough seeing, but it was there) and the Iridium flare at 8:50 and ISS pass at 9:05. I also enjoyed seeing M81/M82 in Wayne's scope. Saturn was rising but looked very disappointing to me due to the poor seeing.
Chris managed to find Comet PANSTARRS in Cassiopeia in his big dob, but even in that scope it looked underwhelming to say the least as it was right on the northern horizon (if I didn't know better, I might have thought Chris had some interest in close observation of the Port-a-Potty!).
Thanks to all who came out, and I hope everyone had as much fun as I did. On to May!
Another report from Wayne Baggett, HAL 1st VP, along with photos can be found here.
My son and I had an amazing time last night. We left shortly after Saturn was viewable, but it was still incredible for the kiddo. I want to thank everyone who was patient with him as he doesn't always get that.
Melody (and Daniel)
April 6, 2013 Members Star Party
I was at AR from sunset to about 9 PM, when it clouded over. Never really counted, but I saw at least 10 people there at one point. I noticed most were packing up when I left, and one or two had already gone.
High point of the evening was the shadow transit on Jupiter. Other than that (for me at least) it was mainly hunting for double stars in the Monoceros region. The conditions for deep sky observing were really wretched, however.
At least it wasn't a rain-out!
And many thanks to David for being our host last evening. It was great to get out with the scope, even for just a couple of hours. And seeing the shadow transit made it all worth while!
Actually, the chance to see the others who showed up as well is what really made it worth while. A lot of good conversation last night, even though much of it was complaining about the poor conditions. The wind was probably more of a problem than the (mostly high, thin) clouds. My scope was literally shaking at times as I observed Jupiter, making it impossible to get a steady image.
Looking for a Star Party or Outreach event that is not on this page? Go to the Star Parties page, find the past event of interest, and click on the link for its date.