The 2015 Michiana Star Party brought together a friendly group of amateur astronomers, experienced and newbies alike. Though the observing was marred by cloudy skies and the threat of rain, pockets of clarity appeared overhead for piecemeal and hurried observing. The Michiana Astronomical Society partnered with Dr. T.K. Lawless Park for its Earth Day celebration, which brought more Saturday attendees and activities and revelry into the night. My MSP7 star party photo album is incomplete in showing activities and attendees, but hints at the postive experience we had.
The observing began on Friday evening with a nice view of sunspots through Jim’s telescope. Later we glimpsed Venus (around a quarter-phase) and Jupiter and its four moons. It was a good demonstration to a young Galileoscope owner about how difficult Galieo’s task and how remarkable his achievements were, considering his equipment.
Guest speakers Nick Schuck and Therese Dorau did a superb job of presenting astronomy gadgets and outdoor lighting in the context of municipal government, respectively. I wish I had more time now to distill, summarize, and share their content, but you'll have to wait or contact them directly for more of their insight.
Saturday evening we set up a telescope near the musical jam session that was going on by a fire pit. It attracted a steady line of Earth Day visitors as we concentrated on Jupiter and its three visible moons. Eventually it clouded over.
Saturday night around midnight the sky started to clear patchily. Berenice’s Hair caught someone’s attention, and sure enough the cluster was prominent. As EarthSky describes it, "The cluster known as Berenice's Hair is one of the most beautiful sights in the heavens. You need a dark sky to see it.” I set up a scope to show Saturn to some newcomers and I was soon joined by other experienced observers and newbies alike. The sky cleared somewhat, enough for us to bounce around and look at Jupiter, Saturn, M57 (Ring Nebula), M13 (Hercules Globular Cluster), Albireo (double star in Cygnus), and some other casual attractions in the sky. Around 2:00 a.m. it started to get cloudy again and we all dispersed, or at least put away the telescope for the night.
I'm keeping this post short, but much thanks is due to Linda Marks and Steve Accuosti for their star party organization, to Ruth Craft for her work including children's activities, to our speakers Nick Schuck and Therese Dorau, and to all who supported this event. Thanks also to Korie and Jeff and the Cass County Parks for their support of public astronomy.