Green Lake Star Party

Default event

Open to Public

Type: Star Party

Held on: Aug 25, 2012 (Sat) at 09:00 PM to Aug 25, 2012 (Sat) at 11:00 PM

Sunset Times:

  • Official at 08:01 PM
  • Civil at 08:34 PM
  • Nautical at 09:14 PM
  • Astronomical at 09:57 PM

Location: 47.680880, -122.341411

Event Coordinator: Mary Anderson

Green Lake Star Party

Map

Latitude 47.68088, Longitude -122.341411

Notes

Last night's Green Lake Star Party offered probably the best observing conditions and opportunity for sustained observing of any star party in recent memory. Although haze and clouds began to invade around 10 p.m., the predominantly clear sky represented a rarity in Seattle astronomy, and a large number of people were able to see good views of that old standby moon, M13, various double stars, and the Andromeda Galaxy among other objects. Unfortunately Mars and Saturn were obscured by trees from sunset until the time they set. As was the case at July's Green Lake event, a variety of telescopes offered to persons interested in buying a telescope the opportunity to compare images produced by each of the three 'scopes: a 4" Maksutov Cassegrain, an 8" Dob, and my 102mm Meade refractor. I didn't catch the name of the person who brought the Dob, but I thank him and Peter for doing a great job of presenting astronomy to the public.
I found that I was even more involved in answering questions and giving explanations at last night's star party than at the previous one, probably because a large number of children were in attendance. Their captivation by what they were seeing produced prolific questioning that was very gratifying and exciting. At one point, I acquired a young assistant when a seven year old girl, Shreya, asked me if she could look at the moon. I was in the process of centering on the moon so that Shreya could see it when another child asked a question about planets. Forgetting the eyepiece, I became involved in answering the question and moved away from the telescope to point in the direction of tree-shrouded Mars and Saturn. When I returned to the 'scope, to my surprise little Shreya was quite involved in looking through the eyepiece. I apologized for abandoning the pursuit of the moon and offered to find it for her if she would move. She replied quite nonchalantly, "Oh, but I'm looking at the moon." A quick check revealed to my surprise that she was indeed looking at the moon, so my next question was about the person who had helped her to find it. Her answer was, "No one! I found it myself!" She excitedly told me how she had never used a telescope before, but she figured out how to move the tube so that the red dot in the finder scope was centered on the moon and then found that the moon was also centered in the telescope eyepiece. I was quite amazed at the ingenuity displayed by this precocious child and immediately asked her if she would like to be my telescope "assistant," taking over telescope operation when I was occupied with questions and explanations. She was thrilled and proceeded to hover by the telescope for the rest of the evening. Judging by her questions and those of other children about the future pursuit of astronomy, I think that a durable interest in astronomy may have been awakened by this star party.
Also, I had another chance to further children's interest in astronomy when a representative of a parent's magazine interviewed me for information about low cost or free opportunities in the Seattle area for exposing children to astronomy. I was able to give her information about SAS star parties, the U.W. telescope and planetarium, the Science Center displays and planetarium, area star parties like Table Mountain, and parent behaviors that can encourage interest in astronomy. (If anyone has any other ideas about opportunities I may have missed, please let me know.) If this information reaches many parents through the magazine, last night's star party may indirectly generate exponential interest in astronomy. That's my hope.
It was a very rewarding and gratifying evening both in terms of astronomy and public outreach. After seeing a large number of people using phone apps which offer an immediate sky map, I'm wondering if these apps are a relatively new source of an apparent burst of public interest in astronomy. For whatever reason, last night's star party was characterized by strong interest in astronomy among persons of all ages but especially in the children.
Mary

Summary

Number of Supporters: 3

Number of Attendees: 50

Number of Telescopes: 3

Duration (hours): 2.0

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