Star Night, Mitchell Hepburn Public School, St. Thomas, May 23rd, 2012

Clear skies greeted students, teachers, parents and RASC London Centre members for a star night at Mitchell Hepburn Public School in St. Thomas on Wednesday, May 23rd.

Representing the London Centre were Harold Tutt, with his 80mm Stellarvue Nighthawk refractor, with a homemade Baader film solar filter, and Celestron binoculars; Matt Neima, with his 25.4cm Dobsonian; Gaetan Godin with his 20.3cm homemade Dobsonian, with a Baader film solar filter, and tripod mounted 20 X 80mm binoculars fitted with homemade #14 welder’s glass solar filters; Phil Marusaik, with his 127mm Sky-Watcher Maksutov; Mike Roffey, with his 150mm Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain and 80mm Celestron refractor with a solar filter; Kelly Manson, with his 9 ¼-inch (235mm) Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain; Dave McCarter, with his 25.4cm Dobsonian and 80mm Stellarvue refractor with a Baader film solar filter; and Everett Clark. In all, there were 8 London Centre members with 9 telescopes and 2 binoculars. Several parents also brought telescopes to the event, which began with the 4 white light solar filtered telescopes showing sunspots on the late afternoon Sun.

People then switched to the thin 3-day-old crescent Moon and even thinner crescent Venus, which seemed to show more than 180 degrees of crescent. Mars was soon spotted and even though it was tiny and lacked surface detail, its colour together with atmospheric effects had people commenting on how it seemed to be burning. Saturn did not disappoint, with some people making out at least 3 moons and the Cassini Division.

Dave called attention to an Iridium flare at 21:34 UT (9:34 p.m. EDT), which managed to get up to magnitude –7 and had people cheering and asking for the Web site to see more. Observers also showed people M13, Albireo, Mizar and Alcor, Epsilon Lyra and a few other deep sky objects. Everyone had left the field by 10:30 p.m. and a few observers gathered at Tim Horton’s for a treat before heading home. Dave and other London Centre estimated that there were some 80 students and parents attending the evening, including a Scout troop just finishing up their meeting.

By Dave McCarter and Bob Duff