Sunday, June 26, 2016

"Skywatch"--ing At Northwest River Park

I was just about to write-up last night's BBAA event in Northwest River Park when Leigh Anne Lagoe's post on the subject popped up on Facebook.  She's the Vice President of the BBAA and with her permission I present her report on the event...

What a beautiful night last night at Skywatch in Northwest River Park. I don't know if we ever got an official count, but I overheard that there were over 20 telescopes set up, and possibly over 100 guests that came out. I'll let someone that's better at reports go ahead and give the details.

I arrived at sunset and by then, telescope row was already packed with members as well as new faces. A wide variety of telescopes were prepared for the night ahead.

Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn dazzled everyone. Once it was dark enough, those telescopes started to swing to some deep space objects like M13 (The Great Hercules Cluster), M57 (The Ring Nebula), M27 (The Dumbbell Nebula), some galaxies, double stars, open clusters, and more. 

The bright planets stayed within view, offering a variety of objects for us to ogle all night. The Milky Way became more and more prevalent as the night grew darker, and M20 was easily spotted naked eye.

The air cooled down, and despite some humidity, the mosquitoes left me alone for the night (A thick layer of bug spray helped). Lightning bugs all around--twinkling in the trees--as the stars twinkled above. I counted four meteors (that doesn't include the false-alarms that were actually lightning bugs in my peripheral vision).

There was an Iridium flare at 10:48, that showed up on time, as expected, but with the build-up of the crowd, the -1 magnitude brief flare seemed to disappoint. Though, the surprise bright spot in the sky just prior to that flare was far more exciting! Since we don't know what it was, I think the term UFO will fit for now. ;)

Overall, a fantastic outreach event. Thanks to all that made it out.

"A night under the stars...rewards the bug bites, the cloudy nights, the next-day fuzzies, and the thousand other frustrations with priceless moments of sublime beauty."--Richard Berry

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