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The month of May (and through the beginning of June) was quite busy for star parties. There were four held at Sedgwick and one at Photon Ranch (up in the hills above Santa Barbara). Thank you to everyone who helped plan and attended these events. All the events turned out fantastic even those that didn't quite have cooperating weather or equipment.
Photon Ranch – 5/11: This was a donation made to the Oaks preschool in Santa Barbara and raffled in their fundraiser. The group was about 15 people and included several young children. Everyone was very excited to be able to look through the telescopes (as well as the yummy star cookies and hot cocoa), but unfortunately the weather was not cooperating. In the occasional holes in the sky, a bright star or Mars was centered in the telescopes (a 20” reflector and an 8” Maksutov) and constellations were pointed out. Several of the young attendees participated in a Q&A session as well as telling stories about the sky in between the gaps in the clouds. As it usually works when trying to work around weather, as soon as the group left the skies cleared. Even though the group wasn't able to see much of the sky, they still seemed to be pretty enthusiastic about learning more about astronomy and seeing some of it with their own eyes. LCOGT attendees included Wayne Rosing, Maida Smith, and Rachel Ross.
Sedgwick – 5/18: The star party was donated to the Central Coast Salmon Enhancement. There were about 10 attendees of the quite varied group which enjoyed a catered appetizer dinner at Sedgwick's Tipton house before heading up to the observatory for desserts, coffee, and sky gazing. The weather was cold, the skies were clear, and the group was able to observe many objects through the telescopes (including BOS and an AP 178 refractor) including Mars, Saturn, and a few globular clusters and galaxies as well as learn a few constellations and stars across the sky. The entire group was very excited and seemed to thoroughly enjoy learning about the night sky and looking through the telescopes. LCOGT attendees included Wayne Rosing, Kurt Vander Horst, and Rachel Ross.
Sedgwick – 5/25: Other than star gazing, another fun nighttime activity at Sedgwick is camping, which is what a group of 8th graders from Carpenteria were doing in addition to full days worth of activities (including star gazing) around the reserve. This event had already been rescheduled once due to bad weather, and unfortunately the weather did not want to cooperate again. But in the breaks between the heavy clouds and before a few water droplets fell from the sky, the group of about 30 were treated to Mars, Saturn, and the waxing crescent Moon through BOS, the AP 178, and an 11” Celestron. Despite the weather, the group was great in asking a lot of very good questions and very much enjoying the few objects that they were able to see (especially the rings of Saturn). LCOGT attendees included BJ Fulton, Kurt Vander Horst, and Rachel Ross.
Sedgwick – 5/30: A physics class from UCSB had a star party near the end of their quarter. Unfortunately sky conditions weren't great due to a bright moon and awful seeing. Even so, we tried to observe many objects with BOS and the AP 178 including Mars, Saturn, the Moon, a few binary stars and globular clusters, and tried for a few galaxies and nebulae even though most were washed out due to the Moon and the bad seeing. The group was great even given the not-so-ideal conditions, and one of the coolest things that the class was discussing on the way back from Sedgwick was the fact that they got a good demonstration of what “seeing” is, because they had only just heard about it. LCOGT attendees included Tim Brown, Rachel Street, and Rachel Ross
Sedgwick – 6/7: A second physics class was able to make it up to Sedgwick for a star party, as well as having a tour of LCOGT two days earlier (with a few of the students staying a bit longer to watch the start of the transit of Venus). This class had been using BOS in their class to get data for individual projects throughout the quarter. The sky was good, clear, and dark and we used BOS and an 11” Celestron (which was controlled by the students taking turns to get some hands-on experience) to view many objects including Mars, Saturn, several galaxies and globular clusters, a couple planetary nebulae and binary stars, as well as an open cluster at the very end of the night including learning some stars and constellations in between looking through the telescopes. BOS was being a bit finicky between each slew to a new object causing some delays but even so the night turned out to be quite successful and the group was great in asking a lot of questions and enjoying seeing objects through the telescope they had been previously been using robotically through a calender. LCOGT attendees included Rachel Ross.
(UCSB physics class from 5/30 looking through the AP 178 with Tim explaining what they are seeing.)
(Kurt looking through the AP 178, with BOS in the background, at the waxing crescent Moon.)
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