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Scopes on The SB150 Green

South Bend, IN, celebrated its sesquicentennail Birthday Weekend on May 22-24, 2015, beginning with the dedication of its new River Lights project. Here's how South Bend looked 150 years after its First Midnight. More fun images courtesy of Bruce Miller are online here.

The following morning, Saturday the 23rd, opened with clear skies. I set up a sandwich board with posters (linked below) showing local astronomy activities happening in the context of the SB150 celebration.

Star Finder with Eltanin (starfield)

Star Finder with Eltanin (background)

First Midnight

Though we advertised that Michiana Astronomical Society Inc. (MAS) members would have telescopes on the Jefferson St. bridge from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m., we opted to start by 4:00 p.m. Helping to staff telescopes and interacting with the crowd included Bruce Miller, Ryan and Dacota Schrader, Eric Sorenesen, Scott Cramer, and SB150 Young Astronomers Perry, Saiid, Jake, and KT.

The sun and its sunspots were the early target, followed by the crescent moon. Venus was exhibiting a quarter phase. On Jupiter observers could see horizontal bands encircling the giant planet--cloud tops, or essentially its weather. Four moons of Jupiter hinted at the sight Galileo first witnessed, a sight that changed the world. Saturn emerged in the southeastern sky, its rings highly tipped on the night Saturn was at opposition, 180 degrees from the sun.

After 11:00 p.m. the fireworks begain. While the first in a pair of Iridium flares near the moon that night was unseen, the second was fabulous (Iridium 66 at 23:24:53 at mag= -5, which is brighter than Venus). Unfortunately, the flare occurred shortly after the start of the fireworks and most people missed it unfolding low in the west.

In a South Bend Tribune article All About South Bend's "River Lights", DTSB Director Aaron Perri describes the functions of the lighting installation. He states, "The sculpture is programmed to cease interactivity for 15 minutes each hour, during the time span from 45 minutes after the hour until the top of the hour. During those 15 minutes, white light will shine on the bridge and the dam, to present the waterway in its natural state." At the top of the hour the lights visually chime to announce the hour.

I propose that, for the final one minute before the top of each hour, all of the lights turn off so that the river environment experiences a truer natural state.

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