It was a great school star party.
I worry a bit about helping out with a school star party sometimes. When I drum up a few volunteers and telescopes for an event I wonder if we will have clear skies and a good audience. These great guys are coming because I asked them. Will it be worth the effort of the volunteers to pack a ‘scope and drive across the island?
Nothing is more frustrating than a crowd of kids wanting to see through the telescope and all you can show them is the bottom of a cloud. I was worrying again as I left Waimea under a solid overcast. Maybe it will be better on the other side of the island? My fear is justified by past experience, the windward side is often cloudy or even rainy in the evening. Arriving at Honokaʻa it was still overcast, maybe down the coast? Over Laupāhoehoe it was clear! How can this be? We got really lucky.
The next worry was the crowd. While setting up there were a dozen telescopes but only a handful of folks waiting for us. But as it got dark the people kept arriving, a steady stream of students and families. A large area of blankets appeared, covering the playing field. William and the other organizers had done a great job of putting out the message to the community, we had a great crowd.
With a quarter Moon we had a good target even before it got dark. Better yet, there were no lights on the field and only a small town below us. After the light faded it was pretty dark on the field, dark enough to show nebulae and star clusters in all their glory.
I spent much of the evening on the Orion Nebula. It looked great in the ‘scope and I could tell the tale of star formation occurring in the clouds of gas visible in the eyepiece. I took a few iPhone photos of the Moon, demonstrating how it was done. The quarter phase was revealing great topography along the terminator.
In the end my worries were for naught. Everything went very well. A lot of happy kids and parents, presented with a good view of our endlessly fascinating universe.