The 2015 Perseids were blessed to occur favoring the USA and on a nearly New Moon. ASEM hosted two events. The Cuivre River S.P. event was publicized in a small market, and the BP event was not publicized by the SCCP but got TV coverage at the last minute. I'm combining both reports into this log.CUIVRE RIVER STATE PARK:
We arrived at 7pm to find the gate locked. My contact, Ranger Jaime (the "Interpretive Resource Coordinator") showed up in a few minutes to unlock the gate. "Special Event" signs were posted along the main road in both directions. Jaime said that they expected between 200 and 400, and I was a bit worried. I set up and the crowd slowly trickled in after sunset. At one point I doubted that we'd even have 30, but they just kept coming. I had packed up for both scopes, but managed to leave the tripod for the C8 behind, so I only had the 16" dob. Given how out of practice I am, it could have been worse. I had brought my son to handle the C8, so he got to enjoy the meteor shower after all.
I showed Saturn for nearly an hour (starting around 8:30), then catered to other DSOs (M8, M13, M57, M27, Albireo, M22, and later on M51, M31, and the Veil Nebula (witches broom). There were about 7 parks employees there, one with a clicker. She had 115 at 10PM, and there were probably only 10 after that, so 125 is my count. Jamie had a loudspeaker, and told 'star lore' as well as meteor shower and comet information.
I brought plenty of ASEM brochures and had several very interested parties. Several had some decent telescopes that they needed help with, and some had general (non-telescopic) astrophotography interest (particularly on shots of meteors). I stressed the Beginner's meetings and A/P SIG to them. I sounded off about Friday Night Open House every Friday night at Broemmelsiek like a broken record. A private school in Winfield also mentioned a camp in September, expecting 100. I directed her to our website on the brochure.
It was a very nice night, weather-wise. We couldn't get completely away from headlight issues here of course. My best views were the Veil and one GORGEOUS meteor that blazed and wiggled for about 45* before burning out. They kept me busy at the scope, often with good questions, so I only got to see about a dozen meteors before packing out.
The work crew came last and got some of the best views. I started tearing down shortly after 11pm and got out around 11:30, home by midnight. From the sounds of the ooh's and aah's, I would guess that it might be one of the best Perseid nights in the past 6 yrs. Around 10:30 I asked a couple of 20-somethings how many they'd seen and they answered 20 and 30 since 9pm. The crowd was a bit thin on elementary kiddos, I expected more but back-to-school issues likely lowered their count.
Jamie had a strong interest in this, and she mentioned doing another event for the Sep 27 lunar eclipse. We'll see. Her husband is the CRSP superintendent.
823 people were clicked in by 1:30 am. The actual body count will be higher. There was a steady stream of cars coming into the park after midnight. Telescopes started getting business when Saturn popped into view.
ASEM people helping the public enjoy the Perseids were Lisa Barnes, Steve Boerner, Grant Martin, Stacey Thater, and Mark Shea. Jim and Ann Trull provided emotional support for the weary scope handlers. We were so busy, I could not leave the telescope and chat with folks. Rangers were called fairly early, as parking became crazy right after sunset.
Well so much for the thought of not pushing the Perseids and only 100-200 visitors! I don't think there were more that 200 at any one time, but there was a steady stream in and out pf the lot all night long with cars parked everywhere. I know that before the ranger showed up cars left without parking not knowing that they could park on the grass over by the entrance. There were lots of headlights and flashlights going everywhere. Quite a few people set up out in the lot and east of the entrance road.
Since we didn't "push" the night, the crowd must have heard about the event from elsewhere where we have no influence...TV, radio, etc. (Note: Fox 2 News broadcasts at 5 and 6 pm were at Broemmelsiek LIVE with Anna Elise Parks talking about the Perseids, before we were even set up).
The shower is a yearly occurrence and in the future we should plan on a crowd whether it really happens or not. While it was a small minority, I do know some visitors were upset with the lack of parking and crowd control. The 2016 Perseids are on a Friday night/Saturday morning with the Moon at 77% full and setting at 1:46 a.m. on the 13th. Both Saturn and Mars should be visible before midnight. The timing next year should mean a double whammy of FNOH and Perseid crowd.
For our part, we promoted the event in Facebook. The top 5 Perseids
related posts caught more than 3600 reaches. When I left at 3AM, they were still rolling in. I'm pretty sure that over a thousand folks went through between sunset and sunrise. When I left, I policed the area and found only two
beer cans, two soft drink cans, an empty bottle of wine and a wrapper
for those self illuminating wrist bands. Not bad for a crowd that size.
(compilation of individual reports from Amy W., Steve B., and Grant M.)