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Sharing Saturn at Silver Lake State Park
Sharing Saturn at Silver Lake State Park

Set against a backdrop of beautiful golden sand dunes, reflected in the calmed deep blue waters at Silver Lake State Park in western Michigan, our evening of sharing the "heavens above" with our fellow campers was a resounding and enjoyable success.

Our goal was simple: to share with as many people as possible the incredible view of Saturn and two of its moons on a quiet and peaceful night amongst tents, pop-ups and whale-long RV vehicles. We setup an 8" SCT reflecting scope on the edge of narrow roadway through the campgrounds where Saturn would be visible for several hours past sunset.

Lined by towering old Michigan pines, the road through the sites was about the only location that could be chosen (within the area of the contiguous campsites) for two to three hours of constant observing of the planetary show the June night would provide for free... just look up and there was another world.

After sharing our plans with the park's summer "explorer guide"earlier that afternoon, she proceeded to visit all the several dozen campsites sharing the state park that evening, informing them of our plans to provide telescope views of Saturn after sunset.

Sunset slowly crept up on us, and our 8" eye on the sky was aligned on Spica and Arcturus, and then slewed to Saturn with a 20mm eyepiece for starters. One by one, our fellow campers sauntered up to our setup, ever cautiously approaching these strangers (that's us) with a big dark blue behemoth tube sitting proudly atop a chrome-shiny tripod, with lots of wires and aluminum gadget cases and unknown widgets and "thingamablobs" dangling every which way from the scope.

Once close enough, we greeted and then invited our fellow campers to step up closer and see Saturn and a few of its moons. High above the tops of the seventy-foot-tall pines, the majestic orb rose and traversed the evening's ecliptic path, and more and more visitors came up to us and were awed, amazed and astounded by the view of what one woman asked "this is just a slide, isn't it?"! Many others exclaimed statements like "Oh my word!", "Oh my gosh!", and the best of them all, "Is that real?".

From adults, aged eighty-fouryears, to toddlers, aged four years held safely in their mother's arms, every one of the almost four dozen visitors to our little "star party" stuck around for multiple chances at the eyepieces, which had now been swapped up to a 9.7mm, rendering much higher magnification while still retaining enough clarity and contrast to generate the "ooohs and awwww".

The night's viewing was highlighted by the passing overhead of the International Space Station after 10:44 p.m., which was "extremely bright" and clearly, almost literally, visibly "blowing us away"!

"It was truly an evening of fruitful and rewarding Saturn-sharing".

Details
Date Taken: 07/26/2011
Author: Jeff J.
Category: Show & TELescope Contest (2011)

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