It was Norman who started it.
An innocent email… Anyone interested in a star party this weekend?
Last weekend’s new Moon star party had been a bust, heavy clouds overhead were a disappointment to those of us waiting for a good dark night.
Given the positive response to Norman’s email there seems to be a few folks ready to go despite a bright Moon in the sky. With the weather looking good the Saturday afternoon email flurry showed that a few folks were going, thus I joined in.
As per Mauna Kea normal I drove through the clouds, heavy fog on Saddle Road just a mile from Kaʻohe made the trip seem hopeless. But as I neared the turn I suddenly found myself above the clouds, the bright Moon high over Hualalai.Continue reading “A Moonlit Night at Kaʻohe”
Our monthly dark skies star party had been originally planned for the night of July 27th, a few days before full Moon. With the governor’s emergency order all access to the mauna was closed, and the gals at the DLNR office let me know I could not get a permit. With that I put out a message I hate to post… Star party cancelled.
One week later and things look better, the emergency order has been rescinded and we again have access to the mauna, no problem getting our permit.
The problem this time looked to be weather, no big problem… Just a couple of hurricanes.Continue reading “A Night Between Hurricanes at Kaʻohe”
It was a very nice night, clear dark skies and bright stars.
A usual the club’s dark sky star party was held this month at Kaʻohe. After two months of poor weather I was ready for a good night out with a telescope. A few others were too, and joined the club out in the dark.
Arriving at the site there was a thin cloud deck overhead. With years of experience here I looked up and told Maureen that the clouds would be gone in an hour. It did not even take that long, the clouds dissolved right after sunset, leaving a clear skies before we were finished setting up.Continue reading “New Moon at Kaʻohe”
I have had to cancel the last three monthly club star parties, three in a row. The February, March and April new Moon star parties did not happen. Yes, the weather this spring has been that bad, just horrible for stargazing. This has affected the large observatories atop the summit, with over 70% of the time lost for March and April.
As the date for this star party approached I checked the forecast and satellite images with apprehension. This actually looks like we might get a clear night.
Which telescope? That decision was already made, I have been looking forward to a dark night with the classic 8″ Cave Astrola since finishing the restoration months ago. Previous attempts another victim of the bad weather. With my vehicle in the shop it took a little disassembly to fit this telescope in my wife’s Honda, but it fit.
Driving up the mountain a cloudless Mauna Kea greeted me, the scene a complete opposite to what I feared. This might actually happen.
Cherry Blossom Festival is a huge event where a large segment of the island population descends upon Waimea for a day of celebration. there are booths and events all across town. There are cultural demonstrations, cooking demonstrations, performances, and lots of food available for an all day, all town festival.
With most of the parking on the south side of Keck observatory, the shopping mall parking lots, and the main event venue north of Keck at Church Row where the cherry trees are, a huge number of people cross the observatory lawns on their way to the festival. It is a natural fit for us to use the day for an outreach event.
The festival is also a very local event. Sure there are a few tourists drawn to Waimea for a festival. But, by and large this is a local event, the majority of attendees are island residents.
They got lucky.
I often caution folks scheduling star parties in Kona that the afternoon and evening clouds will often spoil the attempt. The large Hualalai volcano is the culprit here. In the afternoon the clouds form in the lee of the mountain and give Kona the afternoon showers that nourish the rich rainforest found on the upper slopes.
We try anyway.
WHEA, or West Hawaii Explorations Academy is a charter school located in the NELHA complex just north of Kona and just south of the airport. They concentrate on science, mostly marine science, with an outdoor hands-on curricula. Large pavilions serve as additional classrooms. The campus is littered with evidence of various projects, from large pools, various gardens, and a phalanx of handmade cargo pallet catapults in the back.
The school was having an overnight camp-out on campus, providing a large crowd of students wanting a look through a telescope.
There were some clouds to hamper us, but nothing that would obscure the view for more than a minute or two. A nearly full moon, just a few days shy of this week’s eclipse, was beautiful in the telescope. We also had Saturn, still available in the evening sky at the head of Scorpio. As the evening passed so did the clouds, thinning to a few wisps across the sky.
Maureen was there with her big dob. Chris and Doris with the C-14, Brad with his twin refractor that shows the Moon beautifully. Cliff set up the C-11 giving us five telescopes in all, plenty of eyepieces to supply visions to waiting eyes. I need to spend a little time working on our NextStar GPS 11″, the motor control issue is back, I was running in manual mode much of the evening.
We gazed at the terrain of the Moon and I showed kids, and a few teachers, how to take photos with a cell phone through the eyepiece. A good school star party and a well spent Friday evening. Even if it did take half an hour for the security guard to arrive to open the gate and let us leave. There were also too many chocolate chip cookies available.
Over the past few years the West Hawaii Astronomy Club has visited nearly every telescope on Mauna Kea. One glaring exception to this is Subaru, the 8.2 meter telescope belonging to NAOJ.
Subaru is the only telescope with an active tour program. By making reservations ahead of time you can visit the interior of the facility with a guide. This made making the arrangements for a tour quite simple, even when the observatories are worried about events on the mountain. We did quite well for tour guides, Rieko Murai and Josh Walawender made the tour a bit better than the usual tour. Josh is well known to the local amateur community, bringing his own small telescopes to observe at the VIS.
The limit for any group visiting the telescope is eight due to practical considerations such as safety. Thus I had set up two tours, using both the 10:30 and 11:30 slots. This allowed most of the club an opportunity to visit the telescope. This did mean we were unable to enjoy the experience together. While we waited for our later tour I led a short walk to some interesting geologic features and one of the ancient ahu that are near the road.
When you go to a dinner party involving members of an astronomy club you can expect telescopes…