John, Kris, and Diane and I showed up at the Horse Camp around 8:45. It wasn't long before visitors started arriving and they came out the gates running with questions! That's a good thing, though. We love to help people learn more about astronomy and the hobby - that's why we're there.
When the Moon is out, it's the perfect thing to get us started with our visitors. It's familiar to everyone (albeit, from a distance), and when they look at it for the first time in a telescope, the questions just start coming! With the Moon at a 34% crescent last night, it was perfect for viewing. The craters were highlighted well with the angle of the sunlight on their edges.
While we were looking at the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars all came out and they were our next targets. Jupiter's Galilean moons were all lined up for viewing and with a little higher power we could make out it's cloud bands. Mars, being at around its brightest in years, was pretty red and stood out quite well among the stars. Saturn is always the "ooh", "aah", and "Wow!" planet with its rings. Its moon Titan was also clearly visible, too.
Once it got dark enough to make out more stars we talked about the constellations and how to make out what's up there. In those constellations we looked at plenty of neat stuff, such as the Hercules Cluster (M13) in Hercules, the Ring Nebula (M57) in Lyra, Epsilon Lyra (the Double Double), also in Lyra; and some neat multiple star systems such as Albireo in Cygnus, Mizar and Alcor in Ursa Major (the Big Dipper), and even Polaris (the North Star). We also took a look at a pair of galaxies, M81 and M82, also in Ursa Major.
Unfortunately, the clouds started moving in at around 11pm and by midnight we were almost completely overcast. We would have loved to stick around, as that time of night is the best for viewing, but that's the nature of our hobby: we're at the mercy of the clouds...
All told we had 32 visitors - like I said, it was a busy night - but that's great! That's why we're there: to show people the amazing things out there, teach them a bit about what we look at, and show them how accessible the hobby that we love really is.
We'll see you next month on Saturday August 6th.