Season Opener: April 16

UPDATE: In all, 24 people of various ages shared views of Jupiter and Earth’s Moon over the course of the evening. The Moon’s brightness drown out dimmer objects but views of its surface thrilled and delighted visitors.

What better way to celebrate winter’s end and de-stress for Tax Day than to enjoy a look at a beautiful night sky? While winter’s end and Tax Day are certain, we can only hope the sky will be clear the night of April 16 as we host our first Open Night of 2016. Hours are 9:00 to 11:00 PM, a late start due to Daylight Saving Time.

Given clear sky, two stunning sights of the night sky await us: first, the intriguing waxing Gibbous Moon; a little later, brilliant Jupiter only a month past its closest approach this year! Given time and visibility, we will also seek out M44 the Beehive open star cluster, and M13: the Great Globular Cluster of constellation Hercules.

No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights. Cloudy skies at the starting time cancel the event and, in that case, the observatory will not open.

The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.

Cold night, great view

Photo: Earth's Moon - Mare Serenitatis & Mare Iridium. Photo by James Guilford.
The Moon: Mare Serenitatis (left, Sea of Serenity), half-lit Mare Iridium (right, Sea of Rainbows)

I can’t say as I blame them, the people who didn’t show for our observatory open night Saturday, March 28 — only seven braved the cold. After all, the temperature was about 19° (F), darned cold! But the sky was clear and the waxing Moon was high in the sky. Both Moon and Jupiter were sharing constellation Cancer with The Beehive star cluster (M44). Still, those sensible people who stayed home and warm missed a glorious view of old Luna. In my idle time waiting for visitors, I tried out a little afocal astrophotography using the observatory’s 9-inch Warner and Swasey telescope (ca. 1901) and my little Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 all-in-one. Most shots were a little shy of sharp, and all had some degree of chromatic aberration, and all had a big chunk of image missing where our century-old star diagonal is missing a bit of glass. One shot, however, did work out well, especially after a little fix-up including conversion to monochrome to eliminate color fringing. Not long after the last of our brave visitors left, I caught sight of the indistinct reappearance of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and that was it… time to close up and go home. My toes needed to be thawed.