Sunday, September 15, 2013

Huge Turnout at McCloud Nature Park Public Stargaze

The Indiana Astronomical Society and McCloud Nature Park hosted a public stargazing event last night. I brought along my Meade 285 (2.4" refractor) with hopes of getting some tips about Barlow lenses from the other members. Before I knew it, a caravan of minivans was rolling up to the Nature Center.

By the time I got my telescope set up and centered on the gibbous moon, I had a line of ten Girl Scouts anxious waiting for a chance to peek through the eyepiece! There were kids everywhere! It turns out an entire Girl Scout troop heard about the public stargazing event and decided to make it an outing. We had 110 people from the general public in attendance! I felt so cool fielding questions from the girls and their parents, it reminded me that I know a lot about the night sky.

indiana astronomical society stargazing
Wispy clouds couldn't stop this record turnout

I snapped a couple photos to try to capture the excitement. Since most of the girls were running around, they didn't show up in my 20 second exposure. But you can see the line of people forming behind the other scopes.

mccloud nature park public stargaze
We had pretty good views for about an hour, then the clouds got worse

The wispy clouds limited the objects that we could see, and Saturn and Venus had already set below the treeline. I kept my scope focused on the moon for the most part, and let the bigger scopes provide views of the Andromeda Galaxy.

gibbous moon in clouds
The moon last night, took this 20 second exposure on accident while I was using autofocus

Even with the clouds and bright gibbous moon, you could tell this location is way better than the views I get in Brownsburg. I definitely want to plan a trip during the new moon. Another IAS member told me he was there sans moon and saw the Milky Way overhead reaching both horizons!

telescope in field at sunset
HDR image taken with iPhone of my scope, the twilight clouds, and beautiful wildflowers in the field

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