2009 Kopernik Winter Star Party

On a cold and brisk January day in Vestal, NY, the skies uncharacteristically clear for January, and a group of ametuer astronomers couldn’t think of anything better to do than hold a star party.  The temperatures reached 0 degrees by the time all was said and done, but that didn’t scare off astronomy enthusiasts nor the curious public.

I manned the C-14 dome, which houses a Celestron C-14 Schmidt Cassegrain telescope  mounted on a Celestron CGE mount.  A great piece of equipment.  The C-14 is a vintage Celestron scope from around the mid 1980’s and has superb optics.  We just recently renovated the dome by installing a new CGE mount donated by my good friend Erik.  I brought my high end eye piece collection to support the event since it was such a beautiful day and night.

Before we could support the public, we first had to get the dome controls operational.  The dome is controlled by a toggle switch, which engages a motor to drive the dome in circles.  Well, the dome couldn’t move on its own, and we had to figure out why.  One of the KAS members, Jonathan, discovered a big collection of ice on the outside of the dome, and broke it up.  And the dome started working again, well with a little people power added on.  However, as the night got colder, the dome needed more manual assistance to make it turn.  With that in mind, the KAS has already been chattering as to what the problem is here.  Nonetheless, we made due for this night.

We viewed M36 (an open cluster in Auriga), Castor (the double star in Gemini), and the Double Cluster in Perseus.  The public crowd was a tough crowd tonight in the fact that the temperatures were pushing 0 degrees when we closed up at around 10 PM.  So we should really send props to the public for being the hardy variety of public astronomy.

To keep the public warm, we provided them excuses to go inside to attend the programs for the evening.

6:30PM: Astrowall – 3D Projector: See the local neighborhood of stars in 3D! (actually ran the 3D universe tour all night long…I think 4 times).
7:00PM: Winter Skies: Bright Stars & Constellations by Roy Williams
8:00PM: The Birth of the Universe by Sabrina Stierwalt

All said and done. We hosted well over 200 visitors in the night, and despite the cold temperatures, we had a very successful evening…IT WAS AWESOME!  The only regret of the night, was that I forgot my camera to take pictures of the event.

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