by Jeff Bernardis
So comet ISON has come and gone with a lot less fanfare than had been anticipated – at least by me. There was a fear that perihelion would consume so much of the comet that it would not be a naked-eye object on its outward journey. In fact, perihelion totally disintegrated the comet. A disappointment? Yes, but there are other things to look at in the sky. This time of the year is always the most satisfying to me from an observational point of view. Not only are the atmospheric conditions generally better in the winter; we also have some beautiful and easy-to-acquire targets. One of my favorites is the Orion Nebula. I enjoy showing it to my non-observing friends. Venus has been bright at sunset, and Jupiter comes into view inside Gemini not long after sunset.
It’s always interesting to receive requests for telescope recommendations from people who are either just entering the hobby, or perhaps are trying to encourage a child’s interest. This being the gift-giving season, I have had several such requests, and I have tried to provide good decision-making information to the individuals involved. Many people, predictably, lean towards higher magnifications, and are surprised when I try to sway them towards aperture size. It’s all fun, and it indicates to me that the interest is out there. Based on these exchanges, we have several people who we have invited, with children in some cases, to attend our meetings to see what we are about.
All of this underscores the significance of public outreach for our club. As most of you know, Dave Letcher is our Outreach Coordinator, and he does an excellent job, but outreach is not just his responsibility. It is the responsibility of all of us. There are things that you can do to help with the effort.
- This time of year is typically when we do our keyholder training. The primary responsibility of keyholders is to run the observatory during our public nights. If you are interested, talk to our observatory chair Gene Ramsey – or to any officer.
- Help out at one of the “star parties” that Dave Letcher coordinates. I still volunteer for as many as I can, and find them rewarding.
- There are other events that will happen over the course of the year like the Princeton sidewalk astronomy and Communiversity.
Perhaps it is appropriate that I make this request now – so close to the New Year. If you make resolutions, make one to get more involved with the club.
We had planned on discussing the options for dealing with the donated equipment at the last meeting, but since that was cancelled, that agenda item will move to the January 14 meeting. I don’t think we’ll get everything resolved, but I think it’s important that we keep it in our sights.