Thanks to all who came to Friday night’s Star Party in Washington Park. I don’t have an accurate count of how many that attended, but my wife and I counted at least 60 people that we knew–and there seemed to be as many as we didn’t know as we did. So I’m going to say we had around 120. It was awesome. For over an hour every telescope had a lively line of people at it. The playground was busy too as some of the kids enjoyed the novelty of nighttime playing. Our little pocket parks are quite special in Geneva, there should be more kids there playing!
We had five telescopes and operators on the field. Mike Tartaglia came over from Washington Street (he lives on the other side of the park from em). He had a 5″ newtonian reflector. Peter Saracino from Phelps had a 10″ schmidt-cassegrain on a computerized mount, and Peter Blackwood of Canandaigua had the largest scope on the field, a 16″ dobsonian in what’s called a “dobsonian” mount, after the great sidewalk astronomer John Dobson. I had my trusty 6″ off-axis newtonian.
We had a surprise when Scott (I don’t know his last name!) came a bit early and offered to set up his telescope, an 8″ Celestron starhopper. He was a welcome addition to the field and, as it turned out, we needed him there.
We looked at a wide variety of different celestial objects, including (from nearest to earth to the farthest): the moon, the planet Jupiter, the double-star Albireo, the Ring Nebula, the Global Cluster M15 in Pegasus, and the great Andromeda Galaxy, a fellow member of the Local Group of galaxies which includes our own Milky Way. On a clear, dark night you can see Andromeda as a fuzzy glow between the Great Square of Pegasus and Cassiopeia. When you look at, keep in mind Andromeda is much larger than the Milky Way (a trillion stars to our 500 billion) and that it’s 2.1 million light years away. The photons that your eye is absorbing from Andromeda have been traveling for 2.1 million years. And as far as we know, there are no rest areas between here and there!
The interest and the support from the community was really awesome. Thanks to the Finger Lakes Institute and Sarah Meyers for helping out, and Janelle Toner at Parks and Recreation and Gordy Eddington at City Hall for facilitating use of the park and helping us get the word out.
The next one is set for December 10th. Let’s hope for as good a night! I’ve got some ideas for doing it even better next time, like free hot cider and short guided tours of the night sky with the green laser pointer for those who want to learn how to read a star map and identify the major seasonal constellations. Mark your calendar now!