If any readers are in the KC area, come on out to Lowell Observatory just outside Louisburg KS for tonight’s public program. Have you never been to an astronomy club before? No problem. Here’s how to star party with the rest of us:
1. Try to arrive before sunset. That will give you a chance to check the layout and park in a good place. More on that good place later.
2. If you have a telescope, even a cheapie, bring it. If not, most club members will willingly show you stuff and many will give you a good stream of information. Our club has a few telescopes available and a club member or two staff them to let you see the universe at your request.
3. If you know a little bit about astronomy, feel free to ask to see planets, stars, and objects by name. If you run out of suggestions, somebody will show you something they like.
4. On public nights, many clubs will engage a presenter on a topic. Time for fielding questions is often given. Our club has a weekly presentation in our thirty-seat common room. Check the Lowell Observatory link above. Practically every astronomy club has a web page. It’s worth a look and a bookmark on your browser.
5. After nightfall, observe proprieties with lights. It takes the human eye several minutes to adjust to the darkness. You may see serious astronomers using very dim red light to check charts. Some have laptops with very dim displays. When looking for faint objects in the scope, the human eye can detect fine and subtle details when dark-adjusted. Flashlights, cell phone displays, and especially motor vehicle headlights are a big problem. When I go clubbing, I park away from the group, a bit down the road and behind the observatory building. Our car’s headlights turn on automatically, so I’m careful about where I’m pointing so as not to disturb others.
The moon is a few days from full, so tonight won’t be a decent night for seeing subtleties in the distant universe. Moonlight washes out the fainter objects from view. Not as bad as a headlight in your face, but troublesome enough for the deep sky observer.
Cool image of the moon here, right? It shows how the moon’s slightly elliptical orbit bring it closer and farther as the phases progress day to day.