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Catalina State Park Star Party

Posted: 20 April 2014

I attended the Catalina State Park Star Party on Saturday, 19 April 2014. Several members of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA) had telescopes set up. The sky had been cloudy most of the day, but as sunset approached, holes began to appear in the cloud cover. Before most of the visitors arrived I took two photographs showing some of telescopes that were set up in the parking lot:



The night session started off with an excellent talk by Jim O'Connor (yellow shirt) of the TAAA:



He talked about why people look up at night, how the night sky has influenced humanity over thousands of years, and some of what would be seen once darkness fell. His talk was very well received by the visitors.

Initially the clouds were not very cooperative. This fisheye lens photo was taken about 20 minutes after sunset. North is at the top and west on the right.


This last photo of the night (fisheye lens) shows the crowd listening intently to Jim's talk:


As the sky became darker and up until the end of the star party (about 10 PM), holes in the clouds provided nice views of the planet Jupiter and the four Galilean Moons, M42 (the Great Nebula in Orion), double stars, M81 and M82 galaxies, the planet Mars, M3 (globular cluster), and lastly, the planet Saturn. The visitors got to see different types of telescopes and how they were used as effectively demonstrated by the TAAA members.

Thanks go out to Arizona State Parks, the staff of Catalina State Park, and especially to the members of TAAA who enthralled the many visitors with views of the night sky.

The second Oracle Dark Skies Committee meeting was held last week and things are progressing nicely to have Oracle State Park designated as an "International Dark Sky Park" by the IDA. Still have more work to do to prepare the Nomination Package. In my role as the lead for the Oracle Dark Skies effort, attending the Catalina Star Party was very worthwhile and provided me the opportunity to discuss our plans with members of the TAAA, a Catalina State Park ranger, and the public.

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