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2nd Annual Lake Whitney 
National Astronomy Day 
Star Party

April 27 & 28, 2001

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by Ed Flaspoehler, AAAA Vice-President

My participation in National Astronomy Day included a trip to Lake Whitney State Park, about 70 miles south of Dallas, near Hillsboro/Waco, TX. (And not that far from Crawford, TX, either, just 30 miles south of Lake Whitney! GW did NOT attend!)

I was invited down as guest lecturer for the National Astronomy Day Star Party event organized by Thomas Williamson from North Richland Hills, TX, a suburb of Fort Worth. He has been doing regular public star parties at the state park for a couple of years, and has a lot of support for the park staff.

There were about 50 people present for my lecture, which was a 45 minute slide show and discussion of the Messier objects, mostly galaxies, in Ursa Major, Canes Venatici, Leo, and Coma Berenices. I was able to use my own photographs of the many beautiful galaxies and other objects in these constellations. About half of the audience was kids, and I am pleased to say that not only was I able to keep their attention for the entire time, but they asked a lot of good questions which I was mostly able to answer.

Afterwards, we had a public star party and telescope viewing, and even more people from the park came by. Thomas estimated a total of nearly 100 people attended either the telescope viewing or my presentation. And many people attended both. One man and his son even flew in from Ft. Worth in their private plane! The son, John, helped me during my slide show by changing the slides while I talked from the front of the room.

M51 Canes Venatici. Photo Copyright Ed Flaspoehler
The  Whirlpool Galaxy
M51 (NGC 5194/5195)
Canes Venatici

M3 Canes Venatici. Photo Copyright Ed Flaspohler
M3 (NGC 5272)
Globular Cluster
Canes Venatici

One of the exciting things for me was to see how interested people were to view  the galaxies and other objects that I discussed in my presentation through a real telescope. The most popular objects to view on the telescope field were galaxy M51 and globular cluster M3, both in Canes Venatici, and the pretty double star Alcor and Mizar in Ursa Major. Unfortunately, the bright moon washed out many of the dimmer galaxies, and made even the brighter ones somewhat difficult to find. But I was pleased to find that, after my talk, everyone was easily able to spot the constellations I had mentioned.

Since the moon was fairly bright, I only brought my Celestron Short Tube 80mm f/5 spotting scope, but people were very excited to see Alcor and Mizar so clearly through it, and were interested to see how well such a small instrument can perform. Most people, including the kids, were able to make out the fact that Mizar is a double within the double!

I also was able to meet several AAAA members during the event, including Glen L. Johnson and his son, from Denton, TX. Glen is a graphics designer at Motorola in Plano, TX. I discovered that, since I had given a lecture in this same park last summer, several people had become AAAA members as a result of my presentation. That's cool!

I brought handouts that the AAAA provided, which were the Packet of Observing Programs from the Astronomical League we make available on the internet and through AstroMax. The packet includes the flyers for the Binocular Messier, Binocular Deep Sky, Double Star, Lunar, and Urban club programs. A lot of people picked up flyers.

Grinding Telescope Mirrors 

One of the outstanding features of the Lake Whitney events is the opportunity either to observe or participate in the grinding of a telescope mirror. During the Friday and Saturday of this event, organizer Thomas Williamson again coordinated a project to grind a mirror for a telescope to be donated to the state park for use at public observing sessions. Over the course of two days, they ground an 8" inch mirror, polished, and null tested it. They also ground a 12.5" blank to #180 grit, and null tested Tom McCommon's 12.5" mirror. Harry Bearman ground a 6" blank. 

Touring the Sky

During the observing event outside after dark, Dr. Paul Derrick gave a tour of the sky with his star pointer, and used the 8" scope that was worked on at the August star party last Summer to show  a wide range of deep-sky and other objects to the nearly 100 attendees. These included the Moon and Jupiter, the galaxies NGC 3945, NGC 4565, NGC 4631, and NGC 2362, as well as Messier objects M42-43, M81-82, M97, M108, M109, M101, M106, M51, M64, M104, M3, M13.

Thomas also passed out  several membership forms for the AAAA over the two day event. He says he received  a phone call from Univision in Miami. They want info for their youth program, and he will send along some tips and recommend the AAAA.

The Lake Whitney National Astronomy Day Star Party was a wonderful event, I met a lot of nice people, and we got the AAAA out in front of the public a bit more. I am invited back again in August. I hope to see you there!


April 28, 2001

International Astronomy Day is dedicated to taking astronomy to the people. It is celebrated on the Saturday near the first quarter moon between mid-April and mid-May. Check out the night sky tonight!

Entry forms for the Sky & Telescope Astronomy Day award are available by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Gary Tomlinson at the address below. Deadline for entries is June 13.

New Handbook

To receive your copy of the new Astronomy Day Handbook, 4th edition, revised and published by Sky and Telescope magazine, send a check made out to the Astronomical League for $3.00, $4.00 outside North America, to our new address:

Gary Tomlinson, 
Astronomy Day Headquarters, 
Public Museum of Grand Rapids, 
272 Pearl NW, 
Grand Rapids, MI 49504 USA
(616) 456-3532, 
(616) 456-3873 FAX 
gtomlins@triton.net
www.astroleague.org/
astroday.html

The Stars at Night 
Are Big and Bright
Deep in the Heart of Texas!

The Lake Whitney Astronomy National Astronomy Day Star Party was free and open to the public except for park fees of $2.00 per person. The organized presentations and speaker lectures were held at the Recreation Hall in the State Park. The Recreation Hall has recently been air conditioned. 

T-Shirts for the Lake Whitney Star Party were available. The shirts are black with a single face-on galaxy in silver printed with the slogan, " I Explored The Universe, Lake Whitney Summer Star Party." At the lower corner of the galaxy in small letters will be the phrase, "All men find that for which they seek- Arab proverb." 

Lake Whitney is a Texas State Park located near Hillsboro, TX, on State Highway 22, west of I-35.

Contact event organizer Thomas Williamson at 817-656-0901, or via e-mail at distglow@hotmail.com

Contact Lake Whitney State Park at lwsp@digitex.net

The park information web site is http://www.digitex.net/lakewhitneystatepark

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