Recently, I was told of the monthly event put on by the local group of Deep-Sky Observers, where local volunteers set up telescopes and offer visitors to look through (thanks Deborah’s Barber Shop!) This event was at Robinson Preserve in Bradenton, where the low light conditions most facilitate sky viewing. They vary the location month-to-month, one north one south, with the next in Sarasota on February 6. 

It was amazing! And a lot of fun. I encourage you to look for these in our calendar listings in The 4M, or perhaps at our Meetup Groups. This last one was listed on our private Meetup page, though we may open this to the public in the future — hey, why not, it’s not our event in the first place! 

The event was a thrill for the senses, and a bit surreal. When we got there (as you might imagine) it was pitch black. We stepped out of the car, reluctant to take a step in any direction, as we couldn’t see where we were going. But as they say in Oz, follow the (tar-covered) road. So, rather than crossing grass directly to the telescopes, after a bit of visual accommodation, we simply navigated the winding road until it brought us there — which, in retrospect, was a good idea as I believe there was a ditch in between. 

The various aficionados had different strengths of telescopes, pointed at different locations in the sky: some toward the moon, some toward the Pleiades, and some toward even more distant galaxies. And all of them happy to allow you to look through and talk, once you’ve navigated a pretty short line. In the picture above, I got the idea to put my iPhone up to the telescope viewer of one of the scopes. Wow — who knew I could be an astrophotographer that easily? Much fun.

In one humorous event, I approach what is perhaps the largest of the telescopes of the group — some four feet long. And I’m in line behind this young boy, thinking to myself, kudos to you, Future Scientist! After he steps away, I lean in to take a look — and learn that it was HIS telescope! Ha! He went on in discussion about the “nebulousity” of certain galaxies. As I said, the evening was much fun! 

If you read this in time, join us at the next event, February 16.

–Don

 

 

Telescopes under red light, to facilitate viewing.

Deep-Sky viewing requires low-light conditions. This is one of the telescopes with its red light illumination.

The night was a cloudy one. (Yes, I know this caption evokes the image of cheap prose.) Hosts LGDSO contemplated cancelling the event because of cloud cover, but in the end, we simply had to dodge about half the evening with clouds. This was a picture of the moon as it began to peek out from behind one of the clouds — and everyone scrambling back to the telescopes.