AOAS 2009 Observing Season Underway

Tuesday, February 24 2009 @ 02:00 pm EST

Contributed by: bobmoody

AOAS opened our 2009 season of observing events with the first public night at Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center on February 13, 2009. The following weekend, we hosted the Mt Magazine Area Council Girl Scouts with a night at the Nature Center once again. Our first two events were unimpeded by clouds so all we can do now is hope that the remaining events for 2009 will be as good as the first two were.

AOAS member Mike Baker in the background shows a group of Girl Scouts and their chaperons Venus and some deep-sky objects during a night under the stars on February 20, 2009.

The clouds were quickly thinning all afternoon on February 13 as members Chuck Larson, Mike Baker, Leonard Lynch and myself headed towards Barling and the Janet Huckabee Nature Center. While everyone but myself was there in time to setup in good light, I at least did get my 8" Dob aligned well enough to give good views of Venus and several deep-sky targets including the Great Nebula in Orion, M-42, and the open cluster M-41 in Canis Major. Venus is getting bigger every week and thinner and thinner as well. Its quickly headed for a conjunction with the Sun in late March when it'll pass between Earth and our star and switch back to being the Morning Star once again.

Venus in crescent phase through my 8" f/6 Dobsonian and a 9mm TMB Planetary eyepiece taken with my Canon Powershot A10 at full zoom and on automatic. My first ever attempt at shooting Venus and I'm impressed how well it turned out.
I recently bought a set of three TMB Optical Planetary eyepieces and tried them out for the first time during these first two outings. I must say that this is the first time in 25 years of observing that I have EVER said anything in support of an eyepiece of a mere 4mm, but Venus in the 8" Dob with the 4mm at 300X was as clear as I could expect and I'm sure that it was only the atmosphere that gave the slightest fuzziness to the illuminated side of the crescent. If you ever come to one of our outings when I'm there, ask me to put in one of the TMB Planetary eyepieces and see for yourself. I'll be VERY proud to show you how well they work!!!

We had probably 35 to 40 visitors from the general public on Friday February 13, and the Girl Scouts along with their mothers and chaperons were probably slightly more in number, perhaps 45 to 50. On both nights we were able to see the planet Saturn as it rose above the eastern horizon and very deep in earth's atmospheric haze. The haze was extreme but if you stared directly at the planet for more than 10 seconds, you could make out the nearly edge-on rings which made it look very much like a tennis ball with a nail struck through it.

Both Saturn as a "nail-in-the-ball" and Venus as a "tiny crescent moon" will be available for everyone who has the opportunity to view them over the next several weeks to couple of months. After April 1, the crescent of Venus will have switched over to the morning skies, but Saturn is well placed for viewing all summer long as it goes through its current edge-on apparition. Take every opportunity to view Saturn that comes your way in 2009, since this will be the last time we'll see the Ring World appear this way until the next time we see them go edge-on in about 13-14 years. You'll always remember seeing this unusual and somewhat rare look of Saturn while you have the chance. Don't miss it!

Our next AOAS public observing event at the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center will be held on Friday evening, June 12, from dusk until?

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