Observatory Reports

  • 11 Aug 2013 10:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sat. August 10, 2013
    COE monthly public star party
    Terry Phillips, Jim Sheets, Jim Lynch

    7:30-11:00pm
    Guests 185+

    There were a lot of clouds before sunset, so there was little or no solar viewing possible. But clouds didn't stop visitors from coming.  Ellen Deckinga did astronomy activities with 23 children before dark.  It was hot at first, and the bugs were terrible, but a pretty good wind off nearby storms came up for a while.
     
    Flashes of lightning were all around, and there were a few raindrops, but eventually the sky cleared, and viewing got better.
     
    There were 185 visitors shown on the sign-in sheet, and since there were some folks there before we got set up and put out the sheet, and I know there are always a few who sneak in, I'd say we easily had 200 people there.
     
    There were a few meteors, including one particularly long-lived one that caused a lot of oohing and ahhing.
     
    The observatory was closed up around our stated 11pm end time, but when I left almost an hour later, there were still quite a few members and visitors on the field.
     
    Joyce Lynch, Outreach Chair

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  • 10 Aug 2013 5:00 PM | Anonymous member
    Fri August 9, 2013
    CoE Star PartyDarin & Dana Koch
    8:10p-12:25a
    Guests: 20

    Grounds fair, scopes worked well.

    Skies were pretty good, considering the African Sahara sand dust particles in the atmosphere. But transparency was very good. Some cool pockets of air came from here and there and warm pockets later clearing it all out. 

    Dana's friend Susan Loomis was our guest. She had brought a small 4.5” 1000mm focal length F8.8 Meade DS2000 AutoStar reflector that was given to her which I tried to help her with. It had a severe collimation issue that I tried to collimate and no matter what I tried, I could not achieve pinpoint stars….everything looks like tiny comets. So outside that we had a small crowd and Saturn and was a great crowd pleaser. Everyone had a great time. We sae the thin waxing crescent moon, Venus at upper right of the Moon, Saturn, M13, 17, 51, Albierio double,, Veil, M57, M31. Saw some good meteors…not sure if they were Perseids or sporadics. 

    Temp 80 and calm winds.
  • 09 Aug 2013 3:47 PM | Anonymous member
     
    COTE Star Party
    Jim Sheets
    Wednesday 7 August 2013
    Time: 8:00p - 10:45p
    Total Guests: 14
    Upon arriving at the viewing field, I noticed that the grass & weeds were getting quite tall. (It has been mowed since then)
    The temp was 96 deg. and  the sky was hazy with high cirrus clouds present. I got the roof open and uncovered both scopes, pointed them at zenith to help dissipate heat. As soon as Venus was visible I zero'ed the Telrad's and chose 13mm and 17mm eyepieces for viewing Saturn with both scopes. I figured not much else would be worth looking at under these conditions.
    Six guests came down at 8:30 and I described the scopes for them, then showed some software on the bigscreen. The remaining guests arrived between 8:30 and 9:00. I did the usual laser light tour of the sky. By 9"30 conditions had improved so we toured several objects alternating scopes:
    Albireo, double-double, M57, M51, M13.
    The last guests departed at 10:35,
    Closed and was locking the gate at 10:45.
    Thanks, Jim Sheets
  • 03 Aug 2013 1:50 PM | Anonymous member
    Friday 02 August 2013
    CoE Star Party
    Jim Sheets
    8:00p - 12:00a
    Guests: 60 - 70
     
    I arrived at the observatory at 8:00 pm to open and set-up the equipment. I searched for the misplaced yellow 2" plug for the focuser, but could not find it. We can continue to use the 1-1/4" plug and adapter for now.
     
    The sky was more cooperative this evening being nearly cloudless, seeing and transparency were average with a light breeze, just enough to keep comfortable. My first guests arrived at 8:20 with a continuous gathering until around 11:00 pm. I did not get an exact count as arrivals and departures continued all evening. My best guess is about 60 to 70 total guests. Both scopes were in continuous use all evening while moving from target to target. I made time for a short tour of the universe (on screen) and gave a sky tour with a laser pointer during the end of civil twilight.
     
    This was an enthusiastic group with lots of questions and some preconceived notions that were false. Example: "Why do stars fall out of the sky?".
     
    The last 2 guests lingered until about 11:35 and I closed the facility at 12:00 am.
     
    Jim Sheets
  • 01 Aug 2013 1:30 PM | Anonymous member
    CoE Star Party
    31 July 2013
    Wednesday
    8:30p - 10:00p
    Total Guests: 27
    I began opening the observatory at 8:00p. The grass had grown tall this week, so the place looked pretty shaggy. The LCRA crew is in-house, mowing all areas in the park so I suspect the viewing field will get mowed soon. While getting the instruments ready for guests, I found both Telrads with dead batteries (the switches were left on again). I replaced them with fresh ones.
    The sky conditions at 8:30 were anything but ideal. There were high thin clouds covering most of the sky. humidity was in the hi 80's, transparency was poor/below average, seeing was below average also. Targeted Venus with both scopes to adjust the telrads and wait for better viewing.
    The first five guests arrived at 8:40 and then 22 more came at about 9:00 as a group. I talked about the observatory and did programs on the TV until targets were available for viewing.
    Sky conditions improved as the evening progressed and we were able to view Saturn, M57, M13 and Albireo. There was never a crisp enough view of Saturn to discern any moons but the folks seemed to enjoy the view. M51 was extremely faint, however, when I explained the 2 bright spots were the core of 2 galaxies converging... most people got it.
    Sky conditions were just beginning to get good when all the guests made their exits and left me with the night sky to my self. That's typical of many evening showings. Every one had gone by 11:00 so I closed things up and was out by 11:30. 
    Another successful night,
    Jim Sheets 
  • 28 Jul 2013 4:04 PM | Anonymous member
    CoE Star Party July 27, 2013
    7:30 p.m. - 12:15 p.m.
    James Hall
    Guests: 60
     
    I got out to the observatory about 7:30 p.m.  The sky was very clear.   Grounds good.  Weather was very nice.  I opened up all the doors to let a nice breeze inside.  I swept the observatory and checked for spiders under chairs and such.  No issues there.  Trash was full so I took out the sack and took it home.  Cleaned the trash can cleaner from the cabinets.  I cleaned the desks as well.   Water and Electricity working well, I forgot to check the internet.  There was a large bubble bee looking insect that chased me around the observatory for several minutes that probably looked pretty funny if anyone actual saw me setting up scopes.  

    About 14 wild pigs showed up on the south field and looked to be grazing.  I took some quick video with my camera since that was a first for me.  I've seen giant owls, turkeys, deer, squirrels, but not a bunch of pigs.  I wish Tara could have made it, she takes such great pictures out there.  I would have loved to have seen some high resolution photo's of them.

    Roof opened.  Lights on.  Scopes working.  Setup my iPad wireless to the display through iTV.  Put both scopes on Venus as first guest started to arrive at sunset.  Lots of children.  I was soon able to switch the Harlan to Saturn and did iPad presentations of Exoplanet, Sky Guide, and videos on "Is Pluto a Planet" , "Mysterious Hexagon on Saturn", and "Star Size Comparisons".  Some guests were getting bit by mosquitos so I offered them the off spray in the cabinet and another can from my truck to spay on while outside the observatory.

    I turned the display off as it got really dark to preserve dark adaption.  I did the normal green laser sky tour of constellations.  Went over AAS history, public star parties, how telescopes work, and why we see the milky way the way we do.   Able to view, Mizar, Alcor, Arcturus, Ring Nebula, Venus, several satellites and of course Saturn and its moons.  Lots of "Wows!"  Many guests vowed to return.  Donations in box. Last guests left about 11:40 p.m.

    When packing up to leave, I could not find the yellow eye piece cap for the Forrest Scope.  I searched for over 30 minutes.  I usually put it on the top shelf of the NE Cabinet.  The only thing I can think of is maybe I knocked it off when grabbing the off spray out of the cabinet.  I ended up using a 2 inch to 1.25 inch adapter with a 1.25 inch yellow plug from the cabinet.  If we don't find it soon, I'll buy a new one to replace it.

    Observatory secured without difficulty Left at 12:15 am.  
     
    - James
  • 27 Jul 2013 11:00 AM | Anonymous member

    Fri July 26, 2013
    CoE Star Party
    Darin Koch
    7:30p-11:50p
    Guests: 8

    Grounds fair, no stickers around the EEO, they’ve been cut since last week.  The gate combo was reported earlier in the week to not lock properly and found it open on the gate.  The lock mechanism had jammed up in side.  I sprayed WD-40 and have fixed the problem.  Let’s see how long it holds up. 

    I turned on the routers and still no internet.  Scopes good, Harlan primary mirror is quite dirty, building good, the monitor filter  has started to crawl out a little due to extreme heat wanting to warp the plastic thereby pushing most of the black sticky tape retaining clips out a little.  Still holding pretty good nonetheless.  I just removed the scope covers tonight to show the primary mirrors to the guests.  Did not use the Forrest at all.

    The sky was fair when I arrived, then a beautiful burnt orange sunset beneath the clouds to the west.  Then a frontal passage came through around 9pm with a some bit of wind with some lightning to the NE, but the flashing died down rather quickly. I felt a drop or two and closed the N roof and it too, quickly stopped. Mosquitoes Then it started up again to the east moving SE, lots of flashing, grasshoppers are plenty, so be prepared.

    A couple families arrived shortly with some yound children about 3, but  they couldn’t stay long as the children’s interest soon became lost.   Then an hour or so with no one, then 3 cars showed up and about 6 more guests.  We poked holes here and there, saw Vega, the Double Double, Albierio, and then lastly Saturn showed thru the clouds low in the SW.  I just used the Harlan tonight.  It did great.

    Left at 11:50p temp 84º and very humid.
  • 25 Jul 2013 12:27 PM | Anonymous member
    CoE Star Party
    Wednesday, 24 July 2013
    8:30p - 11:30p
    Jim Sheets
    Guests: 6
    Opened the observatory at 8:30p and soon had 3 couples show up. The sky was 3/4 cloud covered and it was very humid with temps in the high 80's. I tried to keep interest with talking points and answering questions. Viewing improved as the evening progressed. We were able to get a decent look at Saturn along with M13 and Albireo. I did a tour of the constellations that were visible and then used the Big Screen to entertain the folks. When the Moon rose and washed out the sky, my guests all decided to call it a night.
    The grounds had been mowed during the day and looked good. Since we have been experiencing a number of Black Widow spiders in the building, I put in a request for getting them exterminated.
    Upon leaving I had a hard time getting the gate lock to close. It has been giving me trouble recently. I tried lubricating it with a little WD-40, this did not help. The beveled slider that allows the tyne to be inserted does not want to retract. Darin, if you read this report, will you please work on it or replace it. Thanks,
    Jim Sheets
  • 23 Jul 2013 9:41 AM | Anonymous member
    CoE Star Party
    Monday, 22 July 2013
    Clear Skies
    8:15p - 11:30p
    Total Guests: 17
     
    The grounds and building looked good when I arrived. While opening and starting setup, guests began to show up and by 8:45 there were 15 guests present. (pretty good for  a CoE Monday)
     
    Among the guests was Billy Triplett, from KEYE (CH 7) TV. He had been filming around the Resort all day and said that he was doing a special on Hill Country activities. He filmed as I set up the scopes and described them to the guests. Billy said that he had taken shots of the building and grounds during the day and wanted some night shots as well. Perhaps the EEO will get some press in the up-coming TV program.
     
    There was only about 20 minutes between the end of civil twilight and the rising moon so I did a quick laser tour, then concentrated on bright objects. Of course Saturn was a big hit with the folks.
    The almost full gibbous Moon proceeded to wash out everything in the sky. To maintain interest,
    I switch the program to the Big screen and did a virtual tour to the Solar System with Exoplanet software and showed features in the constellations with SkySafari Pro software.
     
    The last of the 15 guests left at 10:00p and as I was preparing to close, two young ladies showed up... so I repeated the program for them and got WOW's from their viewing of Saturn. Then it was time to close up shop. I left the property at 11:30p.
     
    Jim Sheets
  • 20 Jul 2013 4:08 PM | Anonymous member

    Fri July 19, 2013
    CoE Star Party
    Darin Koch
    7:45p-11:45p
    Guests: 35

    Grounds fair, high stickers around the building, building good, ropes are getting frayed, but still ok to use, lots of grass burrs and dry grass inside, scopes good.  Still no internet.  I swept the entire observatory floor and vacuumed along the west wall as much as I could.  I found a live Black Widow spider below one of the chairs on the east wall near the Forrest scope.  Attention to all observatory operators:  please inspect underneath each chair for these type critters before guests arrive.  I’d hate to think someone could get bit by one of these things while doing a star party. 

    Mostly adults and teenagers in tonight’s crowd and boy they were just too silent than the norm.  No one made much sound or anything about Saturn, and the first group I had was a family who never been here before and they too were just a quiet family group.  Oh well, I’m just not used to this especially when Saturn is at its finest.  It is getting lower and lower in the sky and it won’t be too much longer before we’ll have to wait till next year.

    We saw the 90% waxing gibbous Moon, Saturn, M13, M51, M57, Double Double, Albierio. The seeing was poor to fair, but improved after 10:30p. I used the HDTV to Starry Night, show movies and pictures of these objects.  Everyone enjoyed what they saw.

    Left at 11:45p 79º 

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