Saturday, June 26, 2010

Miscellaneous Astronomy June 20-22

How did I get so far behind on posting? Even worse, I haven’t been keeping up on other bloggers and posts on the Chicago Astronomer boards, so I don’t know what my online astro friends have been up to. Time to catch up now.

I had been on a roll with sidewalk events, and some miscellaneous astronomy. Early Sunday morning, June 20, I snuck out of work with a couple coworkers (I’m not naming them, just in case) to try to catch Comet McNaught. Jupiter was up, so I let the guys check it out while I searched for the comet with my binoculars. Unfortunately, I didn’t know exactly where it was, so I found out later I was looking in the wrong place. It didn’t matter to them too much, not with the Galilean Moons getting some attention, and I pointed out that a cloud band went missing recently. I showed them the Andromeda Galaxy, which went over pretty well, but the Ring Nebula was a little too faint for them to pick up. Oh well, I guess my eyes are accustomed to it. The highlight though was a surprise visit from International Space Station. It doesn’t catch me by surprise very often; I think this was just my third unexpected ISS sighting. In most of Porter County, the majority of air traffic is heading west-northwest to Chicago, so anything going east-to-west really stands out, if you pay attention. Plus I remembered that the last time I checked heavens-above.com there were a lot of early morning ISS passes, so I was almost dead certain, but looked it up afterward to double check. By the time we went back inside, the Expedition 24 crew was already off the coast of Africa. Very cool.

Monday night, June 21, I went to see my friend Jim’s son play his last Little League game of the season, and brought out the go-to scope, but impending storm clouds and the Moon low in the winter ecliptic, behind the treeline, kept me from holding any observations. Just having the scope present though brought a few questions from spectators, which was cool.

Tuesday night I went back out to Westchester public Library in Chesterton, mostly because I needed to post some pictures on Photobucket, but decided to take advantage of the clear night and public setting. I hurried down to my car about 8 o’clock, an hour before closing time, to grab my scopes. Right away I had a couple of young twenty-something girls stop to have a look at the Moon, but I was still getting situated with the go-to when they went inside. They must have come back out when I was busy with something else, so no pictures with the cuties. :-(


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Two other women stopped by, and we chatted it up for a bit before getting a picture.


I was right in front of the main entrance, so the employees at the desk came out to have a look, and thought it was pretty cool. A few other people stopped either on their way in or out, so it took me awhile to get completely set up, but I ran an extension cord to a power inverter in my car so I could use my computer. I ran the Virtual Moon Atlas program, but didn’t use it much. I also hooked up my Meade Lunar & Planetary Imager from my Dobsonian telescope, showing the lunar surface on the laptop screen, which seemed to be a hit with the few people who saw it. Running from the Dob rather than the go-to meant it wasn’t tracking, but gave a better image, and I think attracted more attention as the lunar surface rolled by on the screen. I reminded me of watching old Apollo videos looking down as they were in lunar orbit. It’s something I’d like to try again, maybe once I have the go-to in perfect collimation (I still have a slight problem there).


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My set up, with my computer in the background.


Just before closing time at 9 o’clock, a couple of guys came out, Dave and Jeff, and wanted to talk about what I call junk science. Nibiru, alien bases on the far side of the Moon, and that sort of thing. Taking a cue from some of my online friends, mostly I just listened, and when I could, pointed out some good science. They threw out the theory that an early wayward planet came crashing into a planet that was forming between Mars & Jupiter, creating the both the asteroid belt and Planet Earth. I pointed out that the conventional theory of solar system formation says that planetesimals, basically asteroids, were common in the early solar system, but Jupiter’s immense gravity prevented a planet from forming at the distance of the asteroid belt.

I didn’t try to shoot down the theory that aliens have a base on the far side of the Moon because I’ve never seen the far side of the Moon. I did however tell them that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been taking high resolution images and suggested that they check out images on NASA’s website. We stayed out until nearly 9:30, and I let them have a look at Saturn before we left. Leave them wanting more, right?


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Parting shots, after everybody had left.

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