Boy Scout Fall Encampment 10/22/2011

posted Oct 23, 2011, 7:50 AM by Jim Twellman

It was a mostly cloudy sky as I left home and headed to Troy, and I'm wondering if we'll see anything tonight.  I arrived at the Troy fairgrounds at 6:40pm and see that Mike Clemente is already setup and waiting for the clouds to clear in front of Polaris, so he can do his alignment.  Few stars are visible at this point, but we can see the summer triangle.  While I’m setting up, the first couple of visitors arrive, and father and son sneaking over early to beat the crowd.  I did a quick one star alignment on Altair and then moved to Jupiter, who was still low on the horizon and covered with high clouds.  It wasn't the best view, but you could faintly see two bands and one moon, but baggers can't be choosey. 
Jerry Kelley got there a little before 7pm and started setting up.  At the same time the first wave of scouts came in and we were open for business.  Jupiter stayed in the scope for the first hour and a half, but always had clouds over it.  Most of the time you could see it with your eyes through the clouds, but even when you couldn't, it was always visible in the scope.  Then about 8:30pm I lost it completely.  Looking up I could see a clearing was on it way so I continued to talk to the group showing pictures of Jupiter and it's moon with my iPad.  Just as I was explaining to a couple of scouts that had stuck around that Jupiter would pop out any time, it happened, the King arrived.  It was beautiful, the bands were clear, and Callisto, Europa and Io formed a triangle above it, with Ganymede far below it.  I quickly centered and focused it and opened it up to the crowd.  What came next was over an hour of Ooh's and Ahh's, Awesome's, and other adjectives that meant they liked what they saw.
By 10pm the crowd had thinned to a few diehards and Mike and I did a last call to look through the scopes.  We started breaking down about 10:15 and we looked up to see a large cloud bank rolling it.  Perfect timing.
Mike had move around a lot more than I did.  Objects I know he looked at are Albireo, Vega, M13 and M57 and M45.  Jerry had a taken on a young Padawan and let him guide the scope.  This young man had found Jupiter, Andromeda Galaxy, the Pleiadies, and a few more I don't remember.  Jerry was still there when Mike and I left around 10:30.
It turned out to be a great night and we guessed there were 100 to 150 people.  I know we had a lot of repeats once the clouds cleared. 
I got home in time to see Albert hit a homer and the Cards win 16-7.  Yes, a good night indeed!

Well, Tonight WASN'T a total "Bust" after all.  Early, we were fighting clouds that were almost opaque.  In fact we were having a lot of trouble seeing Jupiter, through them.  So I issued a challenge to some scouts that were milling around to see who the first one was that could see it, because I couldn't.  A 14 yr old Scout was the first one and as a "Reward" got to be the Telescope Operator of my 12 inch Dob, for the whole evening.  So, during the evening, as different parts of the sky would clear temporarily, we did a little hopping around looking at various objects, including M-57M-56M-31 & 32AlbireoM45,, the Double Cluster, The OWL Cluster,, Epsilon LyraeM15M2, the Pleaides & of course Jupiter several times at both Low & High magnifications, as the sky permitted.  My young Scout found most of these objects with very little help from me, but would always ask "Is This It"?  Occasionally he was aimed wrong, but for the most part he was dead-on.  He'd never looked through a telescope before, but he had a lot of fun tonight. I also had my 15x70 Biniculars with me & passed them around among the Adults that were there, finding bright objects, naked-eye, then giving them the Binocs & letting them find things on their own.  There were several gasps & WOWs from the adults when they saw the Double-Cluster & the Pleaides & M31
- Jerry Kelley