It started at 2:00 PM on a Saturday afternoon in April. I am a volunteer at our local observatory, the Custer Institute, in Southold, New York.
Fifteen scouts, their scout leaders and parents arrived. We began with an indoor slide show presentation about astronomy, light, how telescopes work, how to identify constellations, etc. Then we went outside and looked at the sun using a solar telescope.
Then, as the night began to creep in, we had the scouts plus a host of people eager to look through our vast array of telescopes. I had my own personal Orion XX12i set up on the lawn, just next to the observatory dome, ready for the public.
It was a busy and satisfying night. The “star” of the show, was actually the planet Saturn. I was able to get a crude photo by holding my point-and-shot camera to the eyepiece. It was the theoretical maximum magnification, using an Orion 5mm planetary Edge-on eyepiece, enlarging Saturn 300X. Everyone said it was the best they had ever seen it.
We moved on to some globular Clusters, like M3, and the great Hercules cluster, M13. We also saw the ring nebula, M57, The Owl Nebula, M97, and many galaxies, such as the M81-M82 pair, The Leo trio (M65-M66, NGC3628) the Sombrero (M104), and then some much fainter galaxies, like the Needle Galaxy (NGC 4565 - my favorite!), and some faint fuzzies in Ursa Major and Draco such as NGC 2976, NGC 3077, NGC 5907 and Herschel H215-1 (NGC 5866).
I especially like this time of year as it is “galaxy season”. By just hopping around between the stars Vindemiatrix in Virgo and Denebola in Leo, we must have observed over 20 galaxies with my Orion XX12i. Every once in a while, I’d “ask” the Intelliscope computer to tell me what I was looking it, or on occasion, to find something for me. A handy feature!
While in Leo, we also stopped to look at Regulus (Alpha Leonis) and Algeiba (Gamma Leonis) – both nice double stars.
I was there until 1AM showing the public the beauty of the heavens and our night sky. An 11-hour astronomy marathon for me. If not for the evening dew, which took over, I might have kept going. (Some Orion dew control products are on my list for upgrades). It was a clear day and a clear moonless night – a rare thing for April on Long Island. It was a most enjoyable evening and a great way to celebrate the night sky!
Steve B. explaining to a scout troop how a reflector telescope works.
The Sun, taken through the Solar telescope and Saturn taken with Orion XX12i and small point-and-shoot camera held near the eyepiece.