The Lowbrows turned out in force for the Saline Star Party May 2nd and 3rd. Brian Ottum hosted this party for his community, commemorating IYA and the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s Telescope.
Thick high clouds thinned out as Jim Forrester, Mark Deprest, Yasu Inugi and Doug Scobel set up their telescopes on the grass near the dome. Liz Calhoun brought her roommate to help point out constellations. Charlie Nielson fought off a head cold to take control of the 14.5” Starmaster. Before the sun set, Brian cranked up the grill (hot dogs & fixins) plus the astro-themed tunes. Mike LoPresto and Steve Murrell, Henry Ford Community College astronomy professors who both happen to live in Saline, set up their scopes nearby.
Brian’s wife Mona lit up the tiki torches and set up the hot chocolate, cookies and display of astronomical pictures. There was even a porta-potty! But where were the attendees?
Luckily they started trickling in at 9pm, as the first quarter moon emerged from the high cirrus. An enthusiastic 25 attendees were able to see craters on the moon (especially Plato), lunar Apennine mountains, Saturn with its nearly edge-on rings, plus three moons. Castor was split, as was Mizar. Visitors to the dome were shown how digital astrophotography was done, taking an image of the Whirlpool Galaxy. Mark wowed the group by pointing out an Iridium flare.
Mark also discovered a new feature on the moon that does not appear on any chart. It is the mysterious “white spot” located near the Alpine Valley. Closer inspection revealed two craters inside the suspected volcano. The Lowbrows enjoyed finding it and speculating on its nature.
After viewing some close doubles (like Porrima) and clusters (an M13 slightly diminished by the bright moon) everyone packed up and left by 1pm. A good time was had by all.
The next night had the same weather—thick high clouds that thinned out after the sunset. Belinda and Robert came with their retinue of scopes of all sizes. Mike LoPresto was back, but this time with son Sam. We had about 20 appreciative attendees who got to see the moon, Saturn, several binaries, and digital images of galaxies. Peter Cunningham from the Saline Reporter newspaper was there, interviewing folks for an upcoming article.
Brian wishes to express his gratitude to all Lowbrows that came out. We need to do it again in the Fall, when there’s no moon!