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Anticipating the Moon and Venus

I had been looking forward to seeing Venus astride the crescent moon. Instead, the moon occulted Venus and clouds occulted both. Here are some snippets in anticipation of today's celestial event.

December 1

Telescopes were set up atop Jordan Hall of Science at University of Notre Dame to complement the Our Universe: Revealed presentation. Clear skies primed me for skygazing ahead.

December 5

At Eddy Street Commons holiday event, with Eric Sorensen and Bruce Miller of Michiana Astronomical Society Inc. (MAS) and with authors Benji and Ila Woolet. Among the visitors were many families. I did lots of demos with a cake tray and bead simulating how the crescent moon was going to occult Venus midday Monday. "The URL for more information is on the bottom of that poster."

With cloudy skies in the morning, I targeted a star to the north. Not Polaris, but the illuminated star of a Christmas tree down the street. It's always fun to have a balloon artist and face painting nearby.

The day got decidedly sunnier with a visit by Miss South Bend Gina Klingel. Shared some info with her about South Bend's First Midnight and the 2015 astronomy connection to South Bend's sesquicentennial (SB150). Gave her a Star Finder with Eltanin.

Eric brought out the solar filter so passers-by could look at sunspots, too. The difference some sunshine makes.

December 7

The Monday celestial trifecta opened on a foggy note, so no scoping Comet Catalina. Like me, you can enjoy the comet vicariously through Martin Ratcliffe's images. Fog segued into overcast, but telescopes were ready for the occultation nonetheless at Fiddler's Hearth. We had a plan if it were cloudy (hint: see sign).

Larry Silvestri quickly sets up his rig, which is supremely elegant in its ease. Staff of Fiddler's Hearth chat with us under the mostly cloudy skies at noon. We laugh and scope out a church steeple instead.

Thanks go to Fiddler's Hearth proprietors Terry and Carol Meehan for promoting science in the community and on the street.

While we waited for clouds to part--and it showed some promise after 1:34 pm.--we aimed the scopes land-side. A spunky woman (not pictured) who intrepidly climbed the stepladder was dismayed that I referred to the object in the field of view as the "North American Star Cluster". She reminded me not to disrespect her flag. The other scope was aimed at the cross atop historic St. Patrick's Church, though the optics produced a flipped image. She again chortled: "If I weren't a lady I'd stomp on your feet with my boots." She explained she thought I had again been disrespectful and had intentionally put the cross upside down in the eyepiece.

Among the passers-by were leaders in the South Bend Department of Public Works, with whom we had dialogue about outdoor city lights, including the imperative to use LED lights that are not blue-rich and the value of controllable lighting.

Just before we put the scopes away, when the moon-Venus pair would have been fewer than ten degrees above the horizon, we took a closing peek at the decorative brick work in front of the former Central High School. Can anyone tell me about the scenes depicted here?

Thanks to Ryan Mullet and Larry Silvestri for working the telescopes and engaging the audience on the street. And to Dr. Micha Kilburn, for furthering the sciency conversation afterward. (Hint: revisit the sign.)

Thanks, too, to my son Eric for confirming he could see Venus naked eye, albeit faintly, from his location under clear skies. I had been wondering and hoping.

Another upside occurred at 7:00 p.m. this evening, when the ISS indeed was visible as predicted. The sky was finally clear enough. G'nite.

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