Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Birthday Sunset Alignment!

After working some long hours, I've finally got a chance to post about my most excellent birthday on Sunday!  With the approaching Solstice and yet another Kitt Peak sunset alignment, I put out an e-mail alert to the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA) to see if there was interest.  Now the 16th is a little early for the alignment - normally we do it a couple days later, but since most work on weekdays, the trigger was pulled and we had about 8 people in 4 cars join us.  We had 5 virgins who had never seen it before, and I brought the big 20X120 binoculars with solar filters for a great view, while shooting video with Melinda's camera with an older Celestron 5" telescope. 
Sure enough, the sun moved over the silhouette of the National Observatory, a few clouds had little effect on the spectacular view...  But interestingly, the earlier date's view was readily apparent - the sun was just a bit further north than it usually is, so it covered all the scopes on the mountain for only a second or two, as opposed to the normal 5 or 6.  Note at left that the center of the sun is well above the mountain profile - compare it to the shot at right taken a couple years ago when the alignment was nearly perfect with lots of room on both ends of the mountain!
A few couldn't make it on Sunday, so another trip is planned for Monday, 24 December.  Yes, it is Christmas eve, but it seems to be becoming a Christmas tradition for a number of us.  I've heard rumors that there might be some weather coming in, but fingers crossed it will be a fun time of socializing and observing without staying up late!
Oh, and on my birthday Sunday, we were joined by our Phoenix buddies Bernie Sanden and Donna Tippens.  After the sunset we went out to a local steak place and had a great dinner.  All of our birthdays should be so much fun - thanks guys!

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