We had a wonderful public viewing session at GTCC’s Cline Observatory last night (Friday, July 31.) The event was dedicated to Jo Cline, a great friend of astronomy who passed away last week.
We began observing with a view of Saturn in the still-dusky sky. Some of the guests could see a moon or two, but the Cassini Division was difficult to make out.
My co-host, Joe, had investigated the schedule of the International Space Station and found that it would make an appearance in our sky. And what an appearance it was! Bright and moving fast, from southwest to southeast, it mad an impact on the huge crowd. We saw it for almost 8 minutes.
Our theme for the evening was “From Far to Near” so we pointed the 24-inch ‘scope at M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy. This face-on spiral galaxy is about 36 million light years away. A fuzzy patch with a smaller but slightly brighter companion fuzzy patch was what most saw. Then we moved over to M3, a globular cluster only about 35,000 light years from us. Much easier to see.
Getting closer to home we pushed our limits with Antares, a double star with a small separation and slight color contrast. Changing from 600 light years away to about 70 light minutes, we finally came back to Saturn, and finally finished with the blinding Moon a mere 1.5 light seconds away.
We estimated about 90 guests last night. Tom staffed a couple telescopes outside and Joseph ran the computer in the dome.