Monday, July 4, 2011

Chicago Astronomers Star Party at Adler, June 28, 2011


It’s been awhile since I was excited about a night of observing as I was all day Tuesday, but I just knew it was going to be a great night. I was anticipating a great session with Joe and the crew at Adler before heading back to Conway Observatory to observe with Chicago Astronomer Tom. Just before leaving for Adler I saw a message from Bill saying he was going to follow me back to Indiana for some deep sky imaging. Even better.

As with others, I was unsure how the parking situation on Solidarity Drive would be, and arrived early to find Rich and Joe already there. We had plenty of time to set up our telescopes and equipment at a leisurely pace, discussing the arrangement of the various finders on Joe’s recently modified C11, webcam astronomy, International Space Station flyover details, and other things. I even brought out my 60mm refractor to check out a blank solar disk. Soon Chicago Astronomers Steve and Bill arrived, and my friend Jerry rode the Blue Line down to join us. Anticipation was building among astronomers and passersby wondering why so many of us were out with telescopes.


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Telescope row.


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Joe prepping the recently modified C11.


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Hillary and Jerry.


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Steve and Joe.


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Photo credit: Rich Wagner.


Before sunset, we had a couple of interesting fly-bys, one a biplane coming up the southern lakefront, and a Coast Guard chopper that swooped down over North Lakeshore Drive. Our first ISS flyover was at 8:32, but the twilight was too bright to pick it up as it crossed 21 degrees over the northern horizon. Still we had quite a crowd looking for it. Even though I didn’t see Station, I waved anyway. There would be a good flyover after 10 PM.


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An interesting fly-by from a biplane.


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U.S. Coast Guard chopper. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.


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Watching for International Space Station.


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Steve looking for ISS. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.


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Tommy (behind C11 counterweight), unknown, Joe, me, Hillary, Jerry, Rich. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.


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Rich and his monster Zhumell 10" Dob. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.


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A look down telescope row. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.



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We had a nice Belt of Venus out over Lake Michigan.


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Joe pointed out the Belt of Venus to me, but I was already getting pictures.


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Waiting for Saturn to pop out of the twilight.


There has been some discussion on the C.A. boards lately about webcam astronomy, with Joe and Rich experimenting with it recently. I have a couple of webcams that I’d like to try, but for now I have a cheap Meade CCD camera that can record either still planetary and lunar images or video. I wasn’t going to record anything, but I knew that with a large crowd on site, showing Saturn live on my laptop screen would go over well while visitors waited to see it in other telescopes. When things were slower, though, I popped in an eyepiece for viewing, because nothing compares the photons reflected by those glorious, icy rings hitting directly to your retina.


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Bill has a look at Saturn in the C11. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.


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I was running a live view of Saturn through a CCD webcam to my computer, while also running Cartes du Ciel to determine the position of the moons. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.



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Of course I was also giving looks at the ringed planet through the eyepiece. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.


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Viewing Saturn via webcam is cool, but nothing compares to seeing it through the eyepiece. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.


Saturn, of course, was a hit, but many people wanted more. When I heard Joe talking about Mizar and Alcor, I was quick to slew over to the double star. I really wanted to show M57, but there was so much light pouring down the tube of my Dob that I don’t think anybody but Bill and I saw it.


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Bill targets M57 through the glare in Rich's Dob. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.




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Viewing M57 in Rich's Dob, while Steve scans the sky near his refractor. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.



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Everybody has a good time at Chicago Astronomer star parties. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.


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Photo credit: Joe Guzman.


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Joe prepares to catch ISS when it passed at 10:08 PM. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.


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International Space Station. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.


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Time to go. Photo credit: Joe Guzman.


As the second ISS pass approached, I started packing away my equipment. So many times I have to leave Adler star parties early to go to work, but this time I was leaving to spend the rest of the night observing. I told Tom when he started his astrophotography class that I would try to join him after the class ended for extended observing. Tuesday was my first chance to get out there when the class was over, so I felt I owed it to Tom to be back as early as possible. (And, of course, I wanted to get under a dark sky with a big aperture scope). I parted ways with Joe and the guys, and Bill followed us back to the Hoosier state for a few hours of great observing. That story is be posted here.


Full Chicago Astronomer coverage can be found on the links below.


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