University Lowbrow Astronomers

The Fifth Annual “Astronomy at the Beach.”

by Dave Snyder
Printed in Reflections: September, 2001.

Astronomy at the Beach

Friday August 25 and Saturday August 26 was the fifth annual Astronomy at the Beach.  I arrived at Kensington Metropark with Mark Deprest at about 6:30PM.  A number of people had already set up along the beach, however most of the Lowbrows hadn’t arrived yet.  Clayton was already set up.  We saw Glen Dent (who works for the Metropark) busy transporting amateur astronomers and their equipment from the parking lot to the lawn.

Watching the Sunset

Doug Bock, Clayton Kessler, Mark Deprest and Doug Scobel watch the Sunset at Kensington Metropark

Unlike previous years, there were no bright comets visible.  Jupiter and Saturn were on the wrong side of the sun.  However Mars was visible, along with the Moon and whatever deep sky objects people could find.  It is traditional to allocate part of the beach for the Lowbrow contingent, Mark decided that an unoccupied portion of the North Lawn would serve this purpose.  Soon Mark set up and we saw the arrival of Doug Scobel, Chris Sarnecki, Milton and Doug Bock (both Doug Scobel and Chris brought Dobs).  Since it wouldn’t get dark for a few hours, all of the telescopes were pointed at either the Sun or the Moon.  Many telescopes had yellow balloons, this signified that they had solar filters and were pointed at the sun.  Visitors were able see a number of sunspots including a nice sunspot group.

The Moon

Somewhat later Mike Radwick, Paul W and his dad, Bob G, Kim D, Randy and Lorna arrived (Mike, Paul and Bob all brought telescopes).  I brought my digital camera.  I had taken daytime photos with it, but no astrophotographs.  The camera couldn’t take long exposures, but exposures of up to a few seconds were possible.  I had an opportunity to try a shot of the Moon.  I tried once with Paul’s telescope and once with Chris Sarnecki’s before I realized that I needed to set the focus to infinity in order to get this to work.  After making this adjustment I had my photo (this photograph is shown above).

In addition to telescopes, there are also a series of talks.  Besides the usual talks which I skipped, we had two special speakers, Randy Rubis (a JPL ambassador, JPL ambassadors do not work for NASA, but give public talks on space missions) and Dr. Steve Edberg (the chief scientist on the Cassini Mission).  I caught part of the Randy Rubis talk, and all of Dr. Edberg’s talk.  After the talk was over, I returned to the beach.  John Causland had arrived while I was gone.

There had been a steady stream of visitors.  Many of the visitors were kids working on their scavenger hunt (kids were given a list of objects they needed to find such as the Moon, Mars, a galaxy and so on.  They could check off items off as they found them).  While it was clear enough to allow the kids to find all their objects, haze interfered with deep sky observing.  Besides the haze, car headlights were a continual problem (the North lawn is adjacent to the parking lot).  Hazy conditions are when Lowbrows are the most resourceful; some of the telescopes were pointed at the Aquafina Nebula.  (The story behind the Aquafina Nebula dates back to last year’s Kensington at the Beach; it had clouded over, so nothing was visible except for some lights on the other side of the lake.  I was using an 8” Dob at the time and I moved it toward one of the lights - it was a Pepsi machine located at Maple Beach, a half mile from Martindale Beach.  I gave it the name the “Pepsi Nebula.”  Apparently there is now an Aquafina machine at Maple Beach).

Earlier in the week a visitor to our web site had a question about a double star Mark described in a newsletter article, I forwarded this to Mark and in the process he found a double star he couldn’t immediately identify.  At Kensington, Mark was able to identify this mystery double.  Because of the poor sky conditions, we all leave relatively early (about midnight or so).

The next morning I talk with Charlie on the phone, he did not go to Kensington Friday night.  Dr. Edberg was going to give another talk Saturday afternoon; unlike the talks on Friday and Saturday evening, this one was aimed at club members interested in more detail on Cassini.  The forecast was for rain so I assumed the evening would be a washout; how ever both of us were interested in hearing Dr. Edberg’s talk.  We arrive that afternoon assuming that we’d leave afterwards.  Kristina Nyland and Adlai Cleveland were at the talk as well as a few people from other clubs.  Back at Martindale Beach, I found Lorna, Kim, Kristina and her parents, Doug Bock, Clayton and Randy.  Even though it was hopelessly overcast, it wasn’t raining and I spent quite a bit of time socializing with people.  Glen Dent thought we had a total of 3000 visitors on Friday and 1000 on Saturday.  While the threat of rain probably reduce the numbers, I think the visitors who came on Saturday probably enjoyed themselves.  Overall, I think it was a successful event.


Photo Credits

All photographs are from the fifth annual “Astronomy at the Beach,” “Sunset” was taken by Al Bates; the others were taken by Dave Snyder.  More photographs from this event.


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