Tonight I joined other amateur astronomers in setting up telescopes outside the Flandrau Science Center for the Venus-Jupiter conjunction. Setting up on the mall in front of Flandrau is always fun because the high volume of foot traffic near the center of campus always draws an interested crowd. Tonight especially there seemed to be lots of kids, and not all were there for the featured speaker - Patrick Woida, scientist from the Phoenix Mars mission was to speak at the Center after some planet viewing. There were easily over a dozen scopes there, including Tucson Amateur Astronomy stalwart John Kalas.
I set up the 7" apochromatic refractor that my friend Roger built a few years back - it is easier to setup than the 14" and gives fine, color-free images. It also has an unusual optical layout (uses 2 mirrors to fold the beam) so it makes people ask about the unusual eyepiece position. Setup before sunset, I had a crowd early on, first looking at easy-to-find Venus, then the Moon before it set, then my favorite, Jupiter. Channel 13 was there doing a live broadcast, but they didn't get down to my edge of the telescope line... We had good crowds, though a brisk breeze made it feel a lot colder than it actually was. Seeing was pretty bad too, though Jupiter's moons, cloudbands, and the partially illuminated disk of Venus was easy for all to see.
Even Melinda made it down for a short time before her shift started at UMC tonight. Here she is shown with Chuck and his ultra portable Pronto. Finally, after a few hours of observing the planets down into the murk, I was able to get people away from the eyepiece long enough to shut down and put away equipment. Chuck, his friend Chunmei and I went out for a beer and sandwich at Barrio Brewery before getting home about 9:30. A nice early end to a pleasant evening of observing.
Be sure to watch the conjunction Sunday and Monday night as the moon moves past Venus and Jupiter!
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