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2011 Astronomy Day Star Party

On National Astronomy Day, Saturday, May 7, the Bartlesville Astronomical Society hosted an evening of public stargazing at Sooner Park.  Members began setting up telescopes just southeast of the Sooner Pool parking lot around 7:00 p.m., well before dark, to give early visitors a chance to see the astronomical equipment during daylight.  It also allowed time for casual conversation about club activities and astronomical topics between members and visitors.

Club volunteers provided a wide range of optical instruments for stargazing.  James Campbell, Duane Perkins and John Grismore all brought Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain Go To scopes.  Chase and Madison Barnett brought their Dobsonian reflector, as did Don Fudge, and Ken Short set up his 3.5 inch Questar.  Daryl Doughty brought his large Meade AR-6 refractor on a German equatorial mount, and Arden Strycker provided 20x70 binoculars on a convenient parallelogram mount.  Visitors Alfredo and Kim Lopez also brought a small refractor.

In addition to the diverse field of stargazing equipment, details of club events and general astronomical information were provided by Joyce Gray-Ritchie at the information table, while Carroll Ritchie, club photographer, captured photos of the event.  The photos have now been uploaded to the BvilleAstro Yahoo Group Photo Section, and some have been posted on the club's Facebook page.

Good weather prevailed throughout the evening with warm temperatures, a light breeze and clear skies.  Observing began before sunset.  Daryl used a solar filter on his refractor to give visitors a view of several large sunspots on the face of the Sun.  Shortly after sunset, observing shifted to the five day old (20% illuminated) crescent Moon, high above the western horizon.  With its vast array of craters and mountains, and impressive contrast of shadow and light along the terminator, the Moon remained an interesting target in all the instruments throughout the night.  But as the sky darkened, attention shifted to Saturn, the stunning ringed planet, rising higher in the southeastern sky as the Moon descended toward the western horizon.  Visitors never tired of viewing these two.  A few additional objects filled out the evening's observing list, including several double stars, such as Mizar and Alcor in the middle of the handle of the Big Dipper, and several globular clusters.

Although no one kept an accurate count of visitors, our Astronomy Day Star Party was very successful, with more than 20 visitors and possibly as many as 40.  Enthusiasm and excitement remained high throughout the evening, with observing and discussions continuing to the very end.  It's always satisfying and rewarding for BAS members to share their passion for astronomy with the public, and this year's Astronomy Day Star Party was no exception.  We look forward to an even bigger event next year.