Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Adventure of being an SAAA member

One of the things I really like is that being a member of the San Antonio Astronomical Association is an adventure! We do star parties at all kinds of locations. During the "School season" I find myself observing in light polluted schools with some times lights only a few yards away. It is almost like a sport we have a team of astronomers at each school and the goal is to get 300 or more people young (some as young as 2-3 years) to look at each telescope in the hour and a half that we are there. That in it self is a rush.

Sometimes I find myself setting up in some of the darkest skys around at our Dark Sky site near Fredericksburg, Texas or at Garner State Park. These events are usually great when the seeing is good and if the seeing isn't up to par at least your their with some friends. Many times we are given free access to events and state parks that we do astronomy at.

A few occasions I've found myself driving across different parts of Texas with telescope in tow. I've been out to Ft. McKavett near San Angelo, Texas with the SAAA for some extremely dark sky on a cold night that dipped into the teens. Not bad to most astronomers up north but we didn't have a warming hut and we slept in tents when viewing became bad. This past summer my wife an I made the long car ride out to Alpine, Texas for vacation and on a number of nights we trekked out to McDonald Observatory to set up our 16" telescope for visitors at the visitor center. Thanks to our connections in the SAAA we were allowed private access to the 86" and H.E.T during the night and got to see actual research being done.

Last night was no exception, my wife and I volunteered to do some sidewalk astronomy at the Botanical Gardens (BGs) of San Antonio for their annual "Gardens By Moonlight" event. It was an adventure we parked in the serve entrance of the BGs and a few members had there equipment carted up the hills to the area we were to set up in by a golf cart. The cart never returned to set pick up my 10" dobsonian and gear. Do I carried it on my back up the hill and though the woods to the area we were to set up at. It really wasn't that bad... it added to the adventure. I took about 4 trips to get all my equipment there... and I needed the exercise! So there my wife and I were now at this location in the Botanical Gardens of San Antonio and we had enough time to walk around and see the Gardens before it got dark enough to do observing.

Later that evening I was showing Jupiter and it was spectacular. At first only 2 moons were visible then the night went on and the moon on the right split and there were now 3 visible. We could see a transit shadow of a moon and we also could see the bands of clouds with great detail. As the night went on those 2 moons that were once one moved further and further apart. And about 10 pm (I didn't have a watch so it is purely a guess) a moon appeared just off the edge of the left side of Jupiter. We continued to observe another hour or so and that moon steadily moved away from the Gas Giant.

Around 11:15 we started to tear down. Once again the cart didn't come quick enough for my taste so I found myself making trips with gear in hand. After everyone was loaded up we headed to Jim's a 24 hour diner here in San Antonio and enjoyed some dinner with fellow SAAA members. We parted ways about 1 am.

What an adventure!

To join the SAAA visit this link.