Star Night, Space Society of London (SSoL) at Fingal Observatory, March 24th, 2015

Clear skies with increasingly hazy clouds later in the evening greeted 30 members and friends from the Space Society of London (SSoL) who car-pooled from their meeting point outside Western University’s Cronyn Observatory to Fingal Wildlife Management Area. RASC London Centre member Peter Jedicke was on hand to coordinate the departure from the Cronyn.

RASC London Centre member Pete Raine went ahead and prepared the London Centre’s Warm-Up Room (WUR) and the Observatory buildings OBS1 and OBS2.  The guests arrived around 8:10 p.m.  Pete made the 12-inch (30.5cm) Astro-Tech Ritchie-Chretien in OBS1 available for cameras to take pictures, although few SSoL members had cameras with them.  Peter Jedicke helped visitors with the 14-inch (35.5cm) Celestron C14 Schmidt-Cassegrain in OBS2, where they observed Venus, the Orion Nebula (M42), Jupiter, the double-star Nu1 Canis Majoris, M51, the double-star Gamma Leonis (Algieba) and the 3-day-prior-to-first quarter crescent Moon.  Peter used a 40mm eyepiece (98X) or a 20mm Nagler eyepiece (195.5X) as appropriate and the telescope worked beautifully.

There were also 5 other RASC London Centre volunteers out on the pad, including Rob McNeil, with his Williams Optics 72mm refractor; Norm McCall, with his Explore Scientific 152mm Maksutov-Newtonian Comet Hunter; Mike Roffey, with his 15cm Celestron NexStar 6SE Schmidt-Cassegrain on a Vixen Porta II Mount; John Brown, with his 20.3cm Dobsonian; and Gary Shelley with his 8-inch (20.3cm) Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain.

The students visited these telescopes, enjoyed the ambience of the WUR and shared the snacks they had brought with them.  There were many expressions gratitude and, overall, this was a fairly knowledgeable group, more motivated than the general public.  Mike Roffey reported showing 3 or 4 visitors Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy in Cassiopeia in his 15cm Celestron NexStar 6SE Schmidt-Cassegrain.

The evening was almost completely clear, with increasingly hazy clouds after a while.  The –2 Celsius temperature was not as cold as many nights this winter but it still nipped at fingers and toes and every exposed nose.  Peter reported hearing coyotes.  By around 10:30 p.m. all the guests had left and the RASC London Centre members closed up the buildings and packed their own gear.