Crystal clear skies greeted 175+ visitors who came out for this year’s Astronomy Day event at Pinnacle Mountain State Park — the only clouds present were inside the Wilson cloud chamber, which Carl Freyaldenhoven set up to demonstrate cosmic rays!
Park staff and CAAS members welcomed a steady stream of visitors throughout the afternoon and evening. Daytime guests enjoyed viewing the sun safely through a Coronado 40 mm telescope provided by Bill Sanders. (When I took a peek, there was a CME loop visible at the 2:30 position, which was a first for me!) Youngsters had a great time chasing and popping giant bubbles, which have become a CAAS Astronomy Day specialty, and many folks took a break inside the park’s Visitor Center to enjoy John Reed’s talk on a multitude of astronomical topics, including a demonstration of Stellarium – an awesome, free planetarium program, which is available for download here: http://www.stellarium.org/ .
As the sun began to set, a wide variety of telescopes were set up in the parking lot, including Dobsonian-mount reflectors, refractors, and SCT’s. Don Lewis had even brought along his unique reclining bino-scope, which inspired many questions and comments from visitors as well as curious club members!
Venus was the first planet to become visible, spotted in the western sky by Kyle Edwards before the sun had completely disappeared. The lovely crescent moon hung nearby, described by Chelsea Reed as a “Cheshire Moon” because of it’s smile-like position.
As the evening darkened, visitors enjoyed observing many different astronomical objects through the various types of telescopes, each of which had a line of folks eager to enjoy the view through the eyepiece. The undisputed star of the show was visible directly overhead – Saturn! Young and old alike OOOOH’ed and AAAAH’ed as they glimpsed this majestic ringed planet for the first time.
Rain or shine, Astronomy Day has always been a day for making new friends. We enjoyed meeting many families and also teens who have an interest in this wonderful hobby. We also enjoyed meeting Robert Brown and Jim Fisher, two club members from the early 1970’s – back when the club was known as MARS. The hobby of astronomy is truly a rich and varied world, filled with people from all walks of life and all degrees of interest. We welcome all of our new friends – and “old” ones! – to join us for upcoming meetings and activities.
All in all, 16 CAAS members came out to share their love of astronomy: Pat and Sandy Morris, and their grandchildren Sam and Caroline; Jim Dixon and his daughter, Samantha; Carl Freyaldenhoven; John Reed and his daughter, Chelsea; Rocky Togni; Don Lewis; Bill Sanders; Allen and Mary Francis Lee; Coy Scott; Stacy and Kyle Edwards; and Don and Carolaina Ferren (who enjoyed making and sharing tiny origami stars with members and guests.)
We would like to extend a great big THANK YOU to the warm and friendly staff at Pinnacle Mountain State Park for having us, and also to ALL of the folks who came out to participate in the activities and view the heavens with us. We look forward to Astronomy Day 2008 – another opportunity to share our passion for this wonderful hobby!
— Stacy Edwards, CAAS Secretary