Re: star party

Darryl Stanford (
Sat, 28 Sep 1996 11:59:27 -0700 (PDT)

Hi folks.  I thought I would relate what we saw at Canada College in 
Redwood City.  I teach a Thursday night astro lab at Canada College & 
this eclipse was a treat not only for the students but also for lots of 
people in the Redwood City area.  At Canada, there isn't an observatory 
but a number of 'scopes in the physics lab.  There is, however, an 
excellent high, easterly facing parking lot.  After meeting my students 
at our usual spot in the classroom, I told them I would meet them at the 
aforementioned parking lot once I loaded the 2 'scopes in my car.  It is 
a very short drive from the lab to the parking lot.  Once I arrived, the 
lot rapidly filled up with lots of people from the surrounding area.  I 
was the only one with cool looking 'scopes ( a C8 and a mint looking 
Dynamax! Remember those?).  Needless to say, once I set up shop mega 
people started clustering around the 'scopes.  I started telling my 
students what they were seeing & passing out eclipse literature.  I luckily 
made enough copies for the gathered folks who wanted them.  At first both 
'scopes were looking at the moon, but since there was ample interest in 
Saturn, the C8 was the dedicated Saturn 'scope and the Dynamax was the 
moon 'scope.  We used a pair of 40mm eyepieces in the'scopes so the moon 
was nicely framed and Saturn was very pretty with Titan easily evident.  I 
even saw, I believe it was, SAO109119 near the moon's northern limb.  
The haze layer was about 10 degrees thick so, when we were able to see 
the moon, at ~ 7:50 PDT, it was already past first contact.  Nevertheless, 
the copper glow was spectacular at mid-eclipse.  A bright spot, eerily 
resembling the Martian polar cap, was quite evident.  I also believe we 
saw the same 2 satellites Leigh had seen, heading northward.  What a 
sight!  The milky way was even visible at the zenith.  The skies were 
really transparent, not a cloud anywhere.  Quite a contrast from San 
Francisco, where I split teaching duties at City College of SF.  I 
instructed my Tuesday night astro class at City to come down to Canada 
since I was going to be there.  About 4 came down & had a blast.  We also 
looked at Jupiter & noticed there were a couple of stars in the same 
fov.  Near 4th contact, I noticed that the umbra was very dark.  Was the 
umbra as dark near 1st contact?   I packed up near 10:15 PDT, literally 
the last out of the lot.  As I headed northward along Interstate 280 towards 
SF, the infamous fog loomed in the distance.  SF was skunked.  PS.  I 
brought along a camera to photograph the eclipse, but with the throngs of 
folks, I couldn't get near any 'scope to take out the eyepiece assembly & 
insert my camera.  Oh well! I also noticed how robust the Dynamax is but 
the focussing was lousy.  There was very evident mirror wobble during 
focus. But it was definitely a blast & all of the folks up at that 
parking lot enjoyed it.  That's what makes teaching such a rush!!

Darryl Stanford
City College of San Francisco & Canada College

On Thu, 26 Sep 1996, Leigh Palmer wrote:

> I just finished the nicest star party I can recall with my
> introductory astronomy students*. We had perfect skies and
> perfect weather for the eclipse. There was a little cloud
> on the horizon, but we saw the partially eclipsed Moon about
> ten minutes after it rose at 1853 PDT. Many were seeing
> various things for their first time. In addition to a lovely
> eclipse which in its latter stages resembled a fragile,
> translucent egg, we saw a couple of bright meteors, Jupiter
> and Saturn, and *many* artificial satellites (30 pairs of
> eager eyes make really good spotters). One pair of satellites
> went over as a bright, close pair, identified later as the
> Russian satellite Cosmos 2221 and a rocket body from Russian
> satellite Cosmos 1271. I looked immediately for a leading
> satellite to make a NOSS constellation, but I soon realized
> that the orbit was all wrong. These satellites were heading
> north. Is there any way in which these objects are related?
> Finally closed up shop at 2130, with dew just starting to
> condense. It sure made a great end to a day that started with
> the observation of the shuttle reentry at 0449.
> Leigh
> *I spent three hours straight answering great questions asked
> by eager students who were not too cold to interact. That's
> my favorite activity!