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GAS Observing evening at Albury - 14 September 2007

Sent in by Julia G. (GAS member).

A few of us beginners turned out at Friday's scheduled observing. Maybe others were put off by the state of the sky early on - high cirrostratus clouds criss-crossed with vapour trails, and bands of low cloud sweeping over. Luckily for us the clouds parted around 8:45 pm and left a window of perfectly clear sky overhead for a couple of hours.

Mike arrived with his tripod-mounted 10 X 50 binoculars. Julia set up the ETX 70, while Richard was the best equipped of all of us with the enviable eyesight of a 12-year old, a comfy chair, a duvet, and a bag of hot chips. The evening started with a scramble to glimpse Jupiter just before it set into the trees on the western horizon. Three of its moons were visible, but no surface detail because of its low position (and our lack of aperture). We all scanned the sky for those old favourites - M31 the Andromeda galaxy, M13 the Great Cluster in Hercules, the double star Albireo and the Double Cluster in Perseus. The sky was very clear and with low light pollution the Milky Way became quite prominent overhead.

Richard scanned the sky for satellites and ticked them off on the checklist he had downloaded earlier from heavens-above.com. He identified Genesis 1, Envisat and 3 Cosmos rockets, plus a few other unidentified ones. At 9:30, a tumbling satellite passed directly overhead, flashing on and off every 2 seconds. He also claims to have seen about a dozen sporadic meteors. We were all treated to a spectacular meteor at about 10:30. It fell from the zenith and dropped almost a full 90 degrees to the horizon in the north. It was relatively bright (mag -2 ?) and slow moving, and left a white-green-black vapour trail which persisted for 2-3 seconds.

By 10:30 the clouds had rolled over, the chips had gone cold and it was time to pack up on a lovely evening.