This article was contributed by David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.
If you enjoy searching the night skies for all its wonders with your telescope, binoculars or just your own eyes, you will notice it seems to be much more fun if you can do it with others around. You will find that it is even more fun if those so-called others turn out to be some of your own friends.
A while back, five of us “friends” had just that chance. We all met in town and caravanned out of Hollister into South County where we set up our equipment. We each had our own telescopes, but the most important thing we brought was food and some hot coffee/chocolate. Okay, we brought some candy too. Four to 10 hours is a long time to go without the essentials.
I don’t care how much you know about this hobby, there are always one or two of your friends in your party that seem to know more about this subject than you do. Or maybe you know something that they don’t know. Well, anyway, it is fun sharing what you do know with others, and them sharing with you. You just know you are going to walk away that night learning something that you didn’t know when you got there. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Not wanting to waste any precious viewing time we started erecting our instruments immediately before the dark skies came along. It always seems to take me the longest to get ready. Maybe it’s because I bring so much stuff with me. Maybe it’s because I’m just slow. I don’t know. When I’m just getting my telescope aligned I look over and everybody else is already gazing at the heavens. They know I don’t like it when they show off.
But once we are all set up the fun begins. Right away I hear Steve yelling out, “quick you guys, come over here I have the Andromeda Galaxy in my sight.” So I run over to see how it looks. I no sooner get there and I hear Dan spout out, “wow, you guys got to see this.” And then it doesn’t take Mike long for him to start acknowledging what he has sighted in his scope. And Ron always has something interesting in his 14” scope.
You wouldn’t think there would be that much exercise involved with astronomy. Sometimes I think I would be better off if I were to leave my scope at home and just use theirs. Then I wouldn’t have to bring up all that stuff, and it would be a whole lot easier to pack up at the night’s end.
Well, everything was going smoothly, and then the clouds came in to greet us cutting our viewing time somewhat short. I say short because there are times when we stay out to four o’clock in the morning or so, depending on the weather and such. So we packed everything up and made our way down the hill in hopes to find the main country road back to Hollister. We all had fun. We all learned a lot. We all talked about coming back soon.
Saying goodbye to a very good friend of mine. Clay, l hope you can see the heavens better from where you are now. We all miss you already. Clear Skies.
March Night Watch
March 1: Moon passes 0.1° south of asteroid Vesta
March 2: First Quarter Moon
March 9 : Venus passes 2° north of Uranus
March 9: Full Moon occurs
March 10: Moon is at perigee (221,905 miles from Earth)