Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Reserve Star Party! What a Turnout!

Photo Courtesy of Brian Batey

In conjunction with Black Bayou National Wildlife Refuge, the Ouachita Valley Astronmy League has sprung back to life after several years of dormancy. Around 125 people showed up for the event. Between 10 and 15 scopes were out in the field, several of which were brought by the public who just wanted to give their scopes a spin. The biggest take-a-way was perhaps all of the "ooos and ahhhs" one could hear echoing across the field. The crescent moon did add a bit of unwanted light to the event, however, most of the public viewers were extremely wowed by the detail the scopes brought out.

Once darkness fell, the group gathered for an introduction of the night sky. Brien Dunn, perched on top of truck, used his new green laser to give the viewers a layout of the night sky and how to star hop. A new twist, since we were not too concerned about light pollution, was the use of a phone app, SkyView Lite, to direct the audience to specific stars, constellations, and planets. Many loaded the app on site and participated in the sky tour using their phones. Heather Gill kept an eye out for passing satellites and pointed them out with lasers.

The night tour began with Orion and M42 since it was dropping low on the horizon and behind the trees. Viewers were amazed to see the "fuzzy patch" in the sky, then look down to view it in the scopes. From there we began to seek out other objects, such as the M13 globular cluster, and M104, the Sombrero Galaxy. Given the moonlight, we were somewhat impressed of the detail we could still make out.

Finally, for those that stayed for the duration, Jupiter began to make its appearance above the southeastern treeline. The images were a little distored because of the low elevation and the light coming through the atmosphere, however, the view was spectacular including the four moons.

Thanks to the great folks at Black Bayou: Ann Smith, Nova Clarke, and Kristopher Kelly for their help in making this event possible.