The township where I live and the local Astronomy club hosted a small Stargazing party tonight. It was nice, about 40 to 50 people showed up and got to see Jupiter and Saturn along with a couple of other easy to find in the sky sights.
I decided I wanted to help out even though I not a current member of the St. Louis Astronomical Society. So I dusted off my old Schmidt–Cassegrain Celestron 8″ telescope and brought it out to the park to help out and use it again after probably about 25+ years.
(This is pretty close to what my telescope looks like.)
My wife and I dragged the scope out to the park, no easy task since the case the telescope comes in weighs about 30 lbs. and the German Equatorial mount weighs about 50 thanks to the counter-balance weights.
I set up the scope and try to focus on some distant trees (it was still pre-sunset at the time) only to find that I couldn’t get the scope to focus. I tried several subjects, but I just couldn’t get the scope to focus.
I was talking to one of the members of SLAS and he generously offered to look at the scope for me. After locating Jupiter in the sky with the scope, he worked on it for about 5 minutes and announced that it’s now focused perfectly. I looked and sure enough, there was Jupiter in all it’s glory!
About like these images:
I was very glad I went to this event!
Overall the event was a blast. There were a lot of kids there ranging in age from about 5 years old to 17 (I think the 17 year olds were there as part of a school assignment). The kids got a blast out of seeing Jupiter and Saturn up close. Nothing truly amazing like what Hubble can resolve, but a decent size and pretty darn crisp in the lens.
All this said, I have to say that what we could see with the naked eye was very sad indeed. I think I could count about 75 stars and this was full on dark night time. Light pollution has got so bad that only the brightest stars were visible.
For example, here is what The Big Dipper should look like:
What I saw was just the 6 brightest stars, the missing 7th is the one that connects the handle to the cup part of the dipper. Basically, the dim star near the center of the above picture. None of he dimmer stars in that picture were visible tonight.
Back when I was a kid, it was easy to see the Milky Way spread across the sky. Tonight, was like a full Moon night sky with a haze all over the sky. I hadn’t realized just how bad light pollution has become until tonight.
One of the Great YouTube Channels I watch called Eyes on the Sky, talks about light pollution each week and how we can reduce it by using smarter outdoor lighting that shines the light down instead of all directions.
We really need to do something about this problem, or kids are going to grow up now knowing what “The Milky Way” is or why it was named The Milky Way!