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Last year's star party at little Sunken Garden's Park in Ravenswood Gardens was a big hit for all. With Saturn sinking quickly, I'd like to give the neighbors and kids a chance to catch it, and whatever else we can target, but time's a wastin' on Saturn. Tuesday and Wednesday look good for weather. If we do it Tuesday, I'll have Julia around to help, which wouldn't be a bad thing, but I can do Wednesday as well.
The Park District finally replaced the second street light that's actually IN Sunken Gardens Park, so I'm thinking about Waters School, which is two blocks to the east and has a nice big open playground. There are some lighting, but they're fairly subdued compared to Adler, and we have clear views to E, S, and W.
We'll have about a 3/4 full Moon to target also, and I reckon we can track down a few open clusters as well.
Anybody interested to come and either bring a scope or just talk to kids about space? They were enthusiastic and had great questions last year. Hopefully, my back will continue getting better and I'll be ready to rock, in a deliberate fashion.
What say you?
Would like to do another one later when Jupiter is up before kids have to go to bed, but let's figure this one out first...
Last Edit: Aug 7, 2011 17:48:04 GMT -6 by patrickm
OK, let's do this. I'm putting a smidgeon of trust in the AccuWeather.com astronomy forecast for this evening. CSC doesn't look very good, but this isn't gonna be a night of Deep Sky viewing, so we should be OK. The smaller the aperture scope, the less you are affected by the atmospherics anyway. Wind should die down just a bit as the afternoon progresses and the clouds will stay way. I'll start setting up around 7:30 in the playground at the school.
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Aug 9, 2011 21:12:39 GMT -6
I didn't want to do any astronomy this night, as I have two full nights to work coming up...but my neighborhood kids pleaded for looks at the Moon and Saturn.
I did drag out the C5 and the 90mm. Kids enjoyed it, police stopped by, took peeks, made friends. 10 minutes later, pit bull dog gets out of my neighbors yard runs toward kids...all get behind me...screaming, as man and beast prepare to battle...just by chance...another dog on a leash comes by...he goes after it...they wrestle...I shoo the kids away and grab a piece of alley furniture ready to cave the dogs head in......he likes his head and darts off, other dog is shaken but ok.
Yea....I didn't want to do any astronomy this night.
Joe, quite the adventure. Goodness!! That's what you get for listening to neighborhood kids about astronomy, I guess. Let no good deed go unpunished. We missed you at Waters though!
Hillary and Paulie showed up at the house at about 6:15 and we all had a nice chat over a small dinner that Julia prepared for us. Nice!
At 7:30, we set off for Waters Elementary, in Chicago's Ravenswood neighborhood. When we moved into this neighborhood in 1996, Waters was a lackluster, pretty run of the mill Chicago public elementary school. It has since been transformed both inside and out and is one of the jewels in CPS's dented crown. The play area was occupied by kids playing soccer, so we were forced to set up on an adjacent patio. This area still has good views E, S, & W, but when the sun went down, the outside lights came on! Even with a burned out bulb in one of the light posts, we were awash in so much ambient light. The eyepiece glare was pretty atrocious! At any rate, Paulie and Hillary set up their two scopes in no time, and I plodded along, just a wee bit faster then recent setups.
The Moon was already shining brightly by this time, and we were shortly joined by a neighbor and his two sons. I have to say that I am really poor with names, and that's too bad, because everybody was SO nice this evening. I don't know how Joe does it engaging, showing, photoing and remembering names! Likewise, we all sorta forgot to take pictures until around midnight, even though we had at least 3 cameras between us. If only we'd had somebody around to remind us...
Anyway, it was great fun setting up and talking astronomy and equipment with everybody, and I learned stuff about the Moon as Paulie went over some basic facts and highlights as I set up. The Moon did look particularly gorgeous this eve with the clouds rolling over it. We also learned that Paulie has a favorite crater! If I remember correctly, it is Gassendi, with its three mountains inside. I finally got rolling and, using a ND50 filter along with my new 8mm eyepiece, was able to throw some serious power on craters Gassendi and Copernicus. Wow and double wow. That's cool and I look forward to hanging out with our tag along kid sister a lot more.
About 8:30, Saturn finally showed itself to everyone's delight. We lost him in the clouds several times, but it was a thing of beauty in the clear patches! People commented about how it looks fake or like a photo, and young and old(er) loved it! Even at less than it's best, with clouds and a lot of atmosphere to get through, it was a huge hit. Around this time, Julia also showed up and met our friend Dan, who had stumbled across us on a walk with his kids. Saturn quickly fell into the tree line, and we moved back to The Moon. At this point, most of our visitors wandered off home for various reasons, and after hanging out with the Moon in all three of our scopes, we decided to try some more adventurous astronomy between the four of us.
The obvious choice here was C/2009 P1 (Garradd). Because of the visitors and the quickly sinking Saturn, I had never gotten my scope properly aligned. I took the time to do that now, or tried to. Polaris was just peeking over the roof of the school cafeteria, so I did a rough polar alignment and realigned the scope. This whole process took a while, and we eventually lost Julia for the evening. She was beat, so that's OK. I then honed in on a a few stars bracketing the comet, and then hopped to a star very close, but not large enough to be in the database. M15 was also caught here and looked really great, even with all of the clouds. The clouds were thicker than before, and Paulie proclaimed that an analog star hop to it was out of the question. After all this time, I looked down to see that the hand controller extension cord had come unplugged, and all of my alignment had gone out the window. (sigh) I started over. Because the skies had actually cleared a bit, this time was MUCH quicker, and in about ten minutes, I was rockin'. And guess what, under Adlerian light pollution and just about the worst place to set up at this school that also had a view of the sky, we found it. It was faint, and nobody else but another astronomer would have been impressed, but we were!
We hung out with it for a bit, just because we could, and then decided to tick off some other solar system objects. We found tiny Neptune, and slightly larger Uranus, but because of the cloud cover and haze, both were mostly grey this evening and under impressed. We did catch them though!
Accuweather Astro forecast: A FREAKING NINE?! REALLY?! NINE? Put down the pipe. You are dead to me.
Our last targets were globular NGC 6934, which was very galactic in its coy faintness, and NGC 7006, which was right next to the comet, but would not show itself for me. Not sure if Paulie caught it or not.
We wrapped up the evening by hanging out with Jupiter, which had just hit 10º and was peeking through the tree tops on the east. We all enjoyed seeing it in Paulie's 6" and my 9.25" scope, even though it appeared to be boiling because of the atmosphere. The SEB is most definitely back. The four visible Jovian moons were lined up in a really cool fashion, with Io and Ganymede very close to each other on the right and Europa and Callisto lined up on the left. Paulie said that it had the same effect as a mini-Sagitta, which it totally does now that I am looking at it. Score another one for Paulie!
Hillary and Paulie spy Jupiter
Paulie checks Jupiter out in the 9.25 and Hillary (wo)man's the 6"
Dig the amazing lighting! Perfect for comet hunting and other more esoteric forms of astronomy!
At about 12:45, we started packing up after a successful night of urban astronomy under conditions far less than ideal.
One last thought, since this is not Park District ground, I am wondering if the 11:00 PM rule still applies?! Perhaps not! And if not, then I shall make a point of heading over to the darker patch of the lot there for late night observing. Will investigate further.
Overall, a really fun night and we agreed to do it again later in the fall when Jupiter is up earlier. HUGE thanks to Hillary and Paulie for driving all the way up from Indiana to help out. I fear I would have drowned without their help early on.
Our full list: Saturn (Planet in Virgo)
Titan (Moon of Saturn in Virgo)
Moon (Moon of Earth in Sagittarius)
Ring Nebula - Messier 57 (Planetary Nebula in Lyra)
C/2009 P1 (Garradd) (Comet in Delphinus)
Neptune (Planet in Aquarius)
Uranus (Planet in Pisces)
Messier 15 (Globular Cluster in Pegasus)
NGC 6934 (Globular Cluster in Delphinus)
Jupiter (Planet in Aries)
Io (Moon of Jupiter in Aries)
Ganymede (Moon of Jupiter in Aries)
Europa (Moon of Jupiter in Aries)
Callisto (Moon of Jupiter in Aries)
Last Edit: Aug 10, 2011 10:41:09 GMT -6 by patrickm
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Aug 10, 2011 5:50:02 GMT -6
What a nice read and very cool.
I too battled the clouds, but enough sucker holes were plentiful for my very short neighborhood session of last night. The kids were a bit too young to appreciate lesser objects, but were excited to examine the Moon and Saturn.
Patrick, at least at that site by the school, you can find lost screws and whatnot with ease...
I recommend a red bicycle light for any telescope set-up. It displays "uncovertness" to authorities and marks your presence and intent.
Cool time out together.
Chicago Astronomer Joe Founder, Administrator and Chief Astronomer
Telescope/Observatory Docent Facilitator Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum
Astronomy Instructor Instituto Del Progresso/IHSCA
Astronomy Program Instructor British International School of Chicago /Lincoln Park Campus
Resident Astronomer Chicago Park District Nature Oasis/Night Out in the Parks/ 606 Trail
Croman, sorry you didn't make it, too! Would have been great to hang and have another scope!
Joe, we could hardly have been any less covert, and we did have lights set up on Hillary's scope earlier until if became obvious that they were superfluous. No. No problems looking for stray stuff. Only found the remains of elementary school bubble gum stuck to the pavers.
Will try to give move advance notice next time so hopefully more willing CAs are able to show up.
We're allowed a next day edit without affecting our final grade, right? So many late night typos! p
Last Edit: Aug 10, 2011 14:28:48 GMT -6 by patrickm
Post by Paulie pchris00 on Aug 10, 2011 17:00:31 GMT -6
Not knowing how rush hour traffic would be, I left early, almost too early. Turns out there was only a slight slow down at the Dan Ryan/Kennedy/Eisenhower circle. Arrived way early, but Hillary and I got to hang out with Patrick, Julia and pets while enjoying shrimp salad (the first time I've eaten shrimp since watching "Tommy Boy.") After an hour or so, it was time to venture out to the school.
Right away Patrick's neighbor Ken and his two sons came up and started chatting with us while we set up. Hillary had her 60mm travel scope up in a few minutes, and showed our guests their first low power lunar views. I was set up not long after, and immediately noticed that it was morning on crater Gassendi (yes indeed; I have a favorite lunar feature, and will come back to it shortly.)
I knew inAccuweather's forecast of a "9" wasn't going to happen, but I also knew that the scattered afternoon and evening clouds would mostly break up. They were lingering- but moving- a little longer than I wanted, and into our already limited time with Saturn, but nobody really complained. I thought Saturn looked very good despite the conditions in both of the bigger scopes.
With a small, somewhat controlled crowd, maybe twenty people at peak, I was able to try something I've wanted to do for awhile. I usually have a moon map handy, and last night was no exception. I had two lunar maps, Hillary had one, and I was running the Virtual Moon Atlas on my laptop. I was also running my Meade camera to the laptop, and was able to point out points of interest as Luna scooted across the screen. For a small group, I think that's the best way to show features. Everybody gets to see what exactly what to look for, and get a feel of it's surroundings, while listening to me explain why that particular feature is interesting. Then the next time viewing through the eyepiece, they can search on their own. It goes right along with my thought that information is the key to good observing. I'd like to do more interactive public observing using the laptop, Virtual Moon Atlas, and my video camera. It seemed to go over well last night.
From Virtual Moon Atlas
Bay of Rainbows, Copernicus, Plato.
Later in the night a ridge or row of peaks started sticking out into the sunlight behind Gassendi.
Once we lost Saturn, we pretty much lost our crowd. That was a bummer because it was still early, but such is life. More scope time for us astrogeeks. I continued lunar observing because I hadn't see much of Luna lately, and I really didn't think I'd be able to starhop under the lights. I was content to check out the Moon leisurely, and check out whatever Patrick could find with the help of go-to.
It was a bit frustrating when he was so close to finding the comet, but had to go back through the alignment procedure. I was getting a little restless and decided to give it a shot via starhopping. Even under the glow of the school lights, I could pick out the diamond of Delpinus in my finder scope. (Btw, Gamma Delphinus, the nose of the dolphin , is a nice double star, very comparable to Albireo, but fainter and a little tighter. Give it a look). I was getting in the neighborhood of the comet when Patrick said he should have it in the eyepiece.
A star that his iphone app showed being in Garradd's tail was in his scope's database, and dropped the star dead center in the eyepiece. I gave it a look, and thought I saw something fuzzy. I really thought I did. Must have been the ambient light around us, because I was seeing little fuzzballs all over last night. I even had Patrick and Hillary try to confirm, but Patrick was doubtful. Good thing. I tried to center what I thought I saw, and discovered I was slewing in the wrong direction. I corrected myself, and immediately the comet came into view at the top of the eyepiece. No doubt about this time. The star Patrick had centered on was still in view, and the 9.25" of aperture was pulling in plenty of photons to be sure this time.
Patrick had used the same sort of go-to starhop to find Comet Garradd at Conway last month, but I was operating the 16" at the time, and hadn't seen the procedure. It's impressive, and takes the cheating feeling out of using go-to.
Hillary and Patrick, with the Edge HD tracking Comet Garradd.
Without flash. Not much difference in lighting.
I don't think I could work off of just a phone app, so I have to give Patrick some credit there. The screen is too small for me, and I like to use multiple resources. On a night of serious observing, it's not unusual to find me surrounded by a star atlas, magazine charts, laptop with one or more planetarium programs and websites with charts open. I like to double check when I'm in an unfamiliar part of the sky, and the more resources I have available for cross-referencing, the more confident I am in my observations.
We got the outer ice giants, Neptune showing not so great color, but Uranus casting a subtle green. I usually see it as gray, even last week using the 16" at Conway. Also, small globular clusters NCG 6934 and NGC 7006 were in the area of the comet. NGC 6934 went on my "must see" list last week after reading this:
The soccer game that forced us under the lights went on until well after dark. I don't know what time the game broke up, but eventually the field was empty. I was going to try starhopping to the two globular clusters, when Patrick said, "If I had that scope, that's where I'd be," while looking over to the field. Seconds later, my Dob was sitting on the turf. I was semi successful in the search for 6934, getting in the eyepiece, but it was very difficult to see. Even using averted vision didn't do much. Patrick used his go-to to get 6934, and had the same star field in the eyepiece. The added light gathered made the glob pop a little. Neither of us had success with 7006. Next time. ;D
At 12:19 AM Patrick sighted Jupiter kind of through the trees. No supernova lightbombs are drowning out good ole Jove! It was almost too bright to believe. Saturn was also seen low on the horizon, but I thought it looked pretty good considering. Jupiter appeared to be boiling, maybe because we were looking out over the Lake? Would air currents and temperature differences over the water make a huge difference in the seeing? If so, no wonder nobody uses the Doane.
We had a short observation list for the night, but that comet was hard won. I felt we spent time observing, not just looking, as I so often do. The neighbors also benefited from having a small group, and close setting, and were also able to observe, as opposed to look. Thanks to Patrick and Julia for having us over. Hopefully I can join in again for the "Jupiter" neighborhood session.