Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest
Star Gaze 2008

Forest Ecology Preserve Star Gaze
January 12, 2008

At the invitation of Jennifer Lolley, administrator of the Forest Ecology Preserve in Auburn, we helped share the night sky with an estimated 200+ visitors who braved the January cold to enjoy the experience.  Representing AAS were:

  • Mike Holley, CPC 1100 SCT
  • Russell Whigham, C-11 SCT
  • Alan and Susie Cook, 10-inch Meade LX-50 SCT
  • Allen Screws, the AAS 8-inch Dobsonian 
  • William and Olivia Baugh, 18-inch StarMaster Dobsonian
  • Rhon and Joyce Jenkins 
  • Jeff Louge and Erika Lefever 
  • Frank Ward
The event was held on the grounds of the Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest, located on Moore’s Mill Road.  Jennifer had astronomical exhibits set up under the pavilion along with patio heaters as warming stations.  Snacks provided for the guests included coffee, hot cocoa, Rocket juice (Kool-Aid), Milky Ways and Moon Pies, and Starbursts.  She also had red lens filters for the visitors’ flashlights.

For most of the afternoon the skies were overcast.  We went with the Clear Sky Clock prediction of clearing by 8:00.  By 5:00PM as we began setting up the telescopes, we could see breaks in the clouds and were rewarded with mostly clear skies by 7:30.

Promptly at 7:00PM, the program began with a welcome by Jennifer followed by an overview of the evening’s activities.  She then introduced AAS president, Rhon Jenkins, who in turn introduced the AAS members who brought their telescopes.  Rhon then went on to explain how the telescope enables us to see small and faint objects in the night sky, using the AAS 8-inch loaned scope in the demonstration.  At the conclusion of Rhon’s talk, the visitors headed out into the darkness.

Out on the observing field, Jennifer siphoned off some of the group for a constellation recognition presentation using her green laser pointer, while other visitors queued up behind the telescopes.  The  four-day-old Moon, Uranus, and Pallas, had slipped behind the pine trees, and Comet Tuttle was hazed out by the time the visitors approached the scopes, but with the Moon out of the way, the prospects of the winter deep-sky objects were suddenly an option.  Guests were treated to views of Mars, the Orion Nebula, open clusters M-35, M-41, M-46, M-47, and the Andromeda Galaxy.

Thanks to Jennifer Lolley and AAS event coordinator, Rhon Jenkins, for his work to make this happen.