Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Magic Night at GMU Observatory

Hey Space Placers!

What a night at GMU Observatory last night. It appeared that the weather would cancel the observing sesssion but it was CRYSTAL CLEAR when people started showing up - early!

We had Cub Scouts to people probably in their 80's show up - over 50 in all.  Families, students, and staff had a magical time under the Earthshine crescent Moon, stars and Saturn. The wind and temperature were very mild and we observed the sky for 2 1/2 hours!

The Moon was awesome as she was among stars that were close to the limb and we could see many lunar features in the dark side of the Moon - the area illuminated by Earthshine. Earthshine is the reflection of sunlight off of our planet's clouds and oceans that falls upon the surface of the Moon.

We looked at the Orion Nebula, a stellar nursery that is visible to the unaided eye, binoculars and telescopes .

Only two people had ever seen Saturn in a telescope so when I turned the 12-inch on the ringed planet - Titan was easily visible too -there were many Ohhs and Ahhs and Wows to be heard. Saturn was a real crowd pleaser.

The new 32-inch telescope is approaching first light as the only thing left to receive is the mount and software. It should be soon that GMU gets the parts and starts putting the telescope together. There will be testing of the optics, software and hardware and then "First Light" - the moment when the telescope turns towards the sky to collect light from an astronomical object.

It is always a special time when people gather together to observe the night sky. I hope you will join us sometime.

Sky Guy in VA

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