Hey there, fellow Astronomers Without Borders...

We tried to hold our Star Party at The Tiger Boys Open House, (a fly-in for antique aircraft held at Guelph AirPark in Ontario, Canada) on the Saturday night, but it started pouring rain right at sunset. Rather than give up, we opted to try again the following night and were rewarded with exactly the opposite conditions – the clouds departed at sunset!

I had my friend, Gord Skerratt’s, 10” Meade LX-200 – equipped with the sensational MallinCam – locked onto the Moon before the sun went down. So people leaving the Air Show all stopped by to view some amazingly-steady images on our TV screen.

Hardcore Star Party attendees made sure they were back before sunset as I’d let everyone know there was going to be a -8 Iridium Flare ten minutes after sundown. We watched nervously as the last bank of clouds moved out of the way, then did a 20 second countdown to the scheduled time of the flare.

As the sun had just set, we got down to 4 seconds before we saw the flare, but despite the still-bright sky, it was a dazzling sight at magnitude minus eight. I love Iridium Flares. They’re a great way of making sure people arrive on time, and one this bright, guarantees a sight they’ll never forget.

While we waited for the sky to darken, we turned all our attention on the Moon.
The MallinCam is a sensational tool for public outreach programs as it allows me to slowly pan across the Lunar surface, pointing out various objects on the TV screen as we go.
Another “trick” I use is to bring out a lunar atlas, then let kids use the hand controller to try and find the Apollo 11 landing site for themselves.

Over the next three and a half hours, various people came and went. I think we averaged  around twenty at any one time. Probably 40 – 50 for the whole event (not including those who had a quick look during daylight). Not a big crowd, but an enthusiastic and attentive one, who all seemed to enjoy the experience.

After getting their fill of “Lunar lore,” I turned the scope onto several deep sky objects, including Globular Cluster M13 (which exploded with bright stars, thanks to the MallinCam), M57, the Ring Nebula (whose central mag 15 star was easily seen), and an excellent, highly-detailed, full-colour view of M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy (which was particularly amazing as it was low in the northern sky, just above a steel hangar roof!)


I think the INOMN was held a bit late in the lunar cycle. Whenever I’ve done Lunar-featured Star Parties in the past, I’ve aimed for First Quarter.  The terminator is crossing a lot more interesting features than we had with this waxing gibbous Moon (which had long stretches of “featureless” Oceanus Procellarum to look at).

Other than that – a great idea.
And keep those International Astronomy Events coming.

All the best & cheers till next time,
Glenn Norman
Cedarville, Ontario, Canada


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