The National Astronomy Day program hosted by Pinnacle Mountain State Park (PMSP) on Saturday, May 24, 2010 was a “brilliant” success.  The estimated 300 visitors who attended the program were treated to brilliant sunshine in the afternoon as well as a bright waxing gibbous moon during the evening star party after a round of storms just hours before threatened to dampen the event.

The festivities started with the special recognition of former long time PMSP Park Interpreter James Mullins by CAAS.   During a ceremony in front of the PMSP Visitor Center, James was named a lifetime member of CAAS in recognition of his 22 years of conducting astronomy education events at the park.   CAAS President Carolaina Ferren and Vice President Jim Fisher presented James with the CAAS Proclamation naming James a Lifetime Member of CAAS, as well his own green laser pointer so that James can carry out his passion for astronomy education wherever he goes.  Attending the ceremony with James was his wife Maria and daughter Margaret.   Late last year James left the PMSP staff and now works as Park Planner/Historic Preservation Specialist in the Arkansas State Parks headquarters office in downtown Little Rock.

The award winning PBS documentary “400 Years of the Telescope” was shown twice during the day in the PMSP auditorium to rave reviews.  After the first screening, birthday cake was served to all attendees in honor of the 20th anniversary of the launch aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery of one of the “stars” of that show – The Hubble Space Telescope!

In between the screenings of “400 Years” Carolaina demonstrated the various types of telescopes for attendees using the demonstration kit provided by NASA’s Night Sky Network.   Also on hand all day was the International Dark-Sky Association – Arkansas Section and their informative display on light pollution, the harm light pollution causes to the environment, and simple ways to prevent it.

All afternoon solar filtered telescopes provided by Bill Sanders, Caroliana and Jim stayed busy with observers as CAAS members showed off their favorite star.   Also during the afternoon Carl Freyaldenhoven roasted marshmallows for the younger Astronomy Day guests using his homemade solar cooker made from an old TV screen image enlarger.   As dusk fell on Pinnacle Mountain giant bubbles were made and plastic soda bottle water rockets were launched by Carl and Bill with the aid of children in attendance.

After a beautiful sunset behind Pinnacle Mountain, all enjoyed fantastic telescopic views of the Moon, Saturn, Mars, double stars, star clusters and nebulae.  Long lines at all scopes were common but especially at John Reed’s 18-inch Newtonian Reflector. Other CAAS members in attendance with the scopes included Jim Dixon and daughter Samantha, Pat and Sandy Morris, Andy Reed, Carolaina and Don Ferren, Jim Fisher, Carl Freyaldenhoven, Bill Sanders, Coy Scott, and Gary Anderson (with his homemade short tube refractor!)  “Lifer” James Mullins returned for the star party with his new green laser pointer to show-off the spring constellations to the guests.

Also during the star party we met first-time attending member Darrell Heath and welcomed back old friend Robert Brown.   First time CAAS event visitor Michael promised a return visit to an upcoming regular meeting.   WELCOME!!

Astronomy Day was indeed a success and would not have been possible without the “brilliant” promotion and supervision of the event by the PMSP staff, especially Park Interpreters Courtney Todd and Susan Staffeld.   WELL DONE & THANK YOU!!

Respectfully submitted,

Jim Fisher

Vice-President (acting as Secretary)