Dr. Alex Shlanta Astronomical Observatory
2nd Annual Astronomical BBQ & Star Party (2007)
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
by Alex Shlanta
The 2nd annual Astronomical Barbeque and Star Party were held at Cerro Coso Community College (CCCC) on 19 October 2007. Supporting this fundraiser for the College Observatory were the Cerro Coso Community College Foundation, CCCC Faculty, Staff, and Students. Members of the Ridgecrest City Council and the China Lake Astronomical Society assisted as well. The barbecue dinner along with entertainment was held from 5:30 to 7:00 pm on the College Library's front lawn. The evening ended with the Star Party at the Observatory that began at 7:30 pm. About 300 - 400 people attended this event and all had an enjoyable time.
The chefs for the BBQ were Ridgecrest Mayor Chip Holloway, City Councilman Dan Clark, and City Parks and Recreation Director Jim Ponek. Dr. John Stenger-Smith, Professor of Chemistry/Physical Science along with Yesterdaze, a popular local singing group provided excellent musical entertainment during the dinner. Master of Ceremonies and President of Cerro Coso College Dr. Mary Retterer conducted a raffle of many prizes. Well received, three back-to-back 25 minute slide show presentations of a brief overview of Astronomy was given in the College Library Room 604 by China Lake Astronomical Society (CLAS) charter member Carroll Evans.
Earlier in the week there were some questions about the weather being suitable for the event. However, conditions on Friday evening ended up permitting operations at the Observatory. There was 10% cloud cover, temperature 65 deg F, and a southwest wind at 12 miles per hour.
The Cerro Coso College bus driven by Larry Board provided about 6 trips from the dining area to the Astronomical Observatory. When people arrived at the observatory Dr. Shlanta using a green laser pointer brought to the attention of the guests the big dipper, the north star, the Constellation Cassiopeia, the Square of Pegasus, the location of the Andromeda Galaxy, the summer triangle of stars (Vega, Deneb, and Altair and their constellations), the Teapot, and the planet Jupiter. A thrill occurred when we were able to see the space station cross the northern sky. Then the people went inside the observatory compound where nine stations were waiting for them set up with telescopes, a TV screen to view the Moon from an electronic eyepiece in a telescope, and a set of binoculars. Recordings of excellent space oriented background music at the observatory was provided by Dr. Tom Foggia. Manning the equipment and explaining the celestial views seen were China Lake Astronomical Society members Neal Barry, Roger Brower, Calvin Clayson, Peter Eiserloh, Kiran Mehra, Chuck Morgan, and Clint Spindler Also assisting by manning stations at the observatory were Richard L'Hommedieu and Bill Weiss. The telescopes set up at the Observatory consisted of refractors, reflectors, and Schmidt Cassegrain systems ranging in size from 5" to 12" in diameter.
For the astronomical viewing the Moon was the highlight of the evening and we were able to see it in its quarter phase. Looking along the terminator, of light to dark, under magnification people were able to see peaks in craters and craters in craters. Jupiter and its Galilean moons was also a popular object. M45 Pleiades (the seven sisters) was a popular sight as well. The blue and gold dual colored double star Albireo was a favorite of many. Also viewed were the globular Cluster in Hercules M13, M31 the Andromeda spiral Galaxy along with its two companion elliptical galaxies M32 and M110, M27 the dumbbell planetary nebula, and NGC7662 (another of the show pieces in the Andromeda Constellation) the Blue snowball, a blue appearing planetary nebula.