Friday March 14, 2014
CoE Star Party
This was by far the best star party that I've ever done. The people that came out tonight were so deeply engaged in the everything that was presented. I arrived around 6:30 p.m. Temp was nice 72 degrees, sky was mostly clear. I stopped by the resort to check in and the staff there was in such great spirits that it really helped make my day.
I could tell the resort was full so I knew it would be a busy night of entertaining large amounts of guests. I quickly headed out to the observatory. The observatory grounds were good, internet working. Red lights on. Scopes up. It was pretty much 100% cloud cover as guests started to arrive. But I still had hope, I know I've seen sky conditions turn around before. A nice guy named Jonathan showed up early and we talked about what type of scope to get his son. He also sounds like he is very interested in astrophotography. So I gave him tips on what I've learned as well as how to join AAS.
As the sun went down, guests of all ages started to fill the observatory. I explained how telescopes worked and AAS history and monthly star parties. Then I went into the possible viewing we would have of the moon and Jupiter. After answering some brief questions, I quickly switched to the large display and began explaining about the current mission to Pluto. They loved the video that explained "Is Pluto a Planet?" Switching to "Sky Guide" app was one of the biggest hits. Some of the children would point it at different parts of the milky way while the adults enjoyed looking at it on the large display.
Then the first amazing thing happened to me. It was like I just got flash mobbed from a packed observatory full of guests. They all just started smiling and singing happy birthday to James. I think someone at the resort must have tipped them off, but I was so caught off guard that all I could do was smile back and be determined to give these people the best cloudy night presentation I could. A young boy named Justin said it was his birthday today too. We both thought it was awesome that we shared the same day.
Suddenly, someone pointed up and said "whats that bright star coming through the clouds?" It was Jupiter! I quickly aligned the Harlan on it and got the line of people going. Guests that were once worried the sky was going to block their view were suddenly all lined up speaking all those wonderful "Wow!" moments as they took turns looking through the eyepiece.
The moon (not wanting to be outdone by all the attention Jupiter was getting) suddenly made it's appearance as well. So I swung the Forrest scope on it as guests lined up to look at the craters. It was nice to have 2 full lines going with such a large crowd.
Best moment of the night is when the last group of children were about to leave the observatory. The mother was taking him towards the observatory door when he suddenly bolted for me and gave me a huge hug around my legs. It was a great way for me to end the night knowing that everyone had such a great time.
Several guests planned to return again soon. Especially once Saturn comes out.
All in all another wonderful night of astronomy outreach. :)