Oscar B. from the 4th grade class at Sanborn Elementary was one of the winners from the YAP program. I took the opportunity to deliver them in person as well as provide a small training session for Oscar, his dad, and Oscar’s friend Andrew. After a quick less on how to adjust binoculars an dread star charts in the parking lot, we headed up to the top of Holt Hill in the Ward Reservation in Andover. A panoramic view of Boston is available from the top.
As darkness pushed out the light (wait, that’s not the way it’s supposed to go, is it?) we were able to observe with the binoculars:
- Crescent moon with Earthshine illuminating the side facing away from the Sun
- Jupiter, and by bracing the binocs against a tree, at least 2 of its moons.
- Alcor & Mizar
- Melotte 111 (Coma star cluster)
- M44 (Beehive cluster)
- M13 (Globular cluster in Hercules)
as well as learning how to use the Big Dipper to find Polaris and Arcturus, the outline of the full constellation of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, and recognizing Leo and Hercules.
Some occasional clouds made things a bit hazy, as well as it was still not fully dark. Despite that the observing was great a time and we would have stayed longer if it wasn’t a school night.
The clusters were found by star hopping and then “cheating” by me aiming my green laser pointer at the object. This actually seems to work pretty well, though for something like M13 it’s pretty hard to hold it steady while looking through the binocs to make sure the aim is right at the same time. Maybe next time I’ll try a tripod to hold the pointer.