By Bob Scott, Island County Astronomical Society
Many people think Astronomers are a solitary type of person, they see a picture of an Astronomer by themselves at a telescope. Astronomy is even more enjoyable when you can share it. That is why there are public star parties. There are two types of star parties: 1. one where just a group of astronomers gather to observe, and 2. a public star party where the public is invited to view through the astronomers telescopes. At Deception Pass State Park, Island County Astronomical Society holds a few public star parties in mid to late summer at West Beach.
The star party usually starts with a presentation where slides are shown explaining Astronomy, what can be seen through telescopes and binoculars, and star party etiquette. Then participants go out to the telescopes. At each telescope will be the astronomer who owns that telescope and will operate it for you. They will aim the telescope at an interesting object, then let you look at the object, and answer questions. There will usually be lines of people waiting at each telescope. When you have had a turn at one telescope move to a different one to see a different object. Each type of telescope will show objects a little differently depending on telescope size and magnification. Also someone will be pointing out constellations and showing you how to find them.
At a star party you may see the following: the Sun, the Moon, other Moons, Planets, Comets, Galaxies, Open Clusters, Globular Clusters, Planetary Nebula, Bright Nebula, Dark Nebula, Double Stars, Carbon stars, Variable stars, and various colored stars. Stars come in many colors starting at blue white, white, yellow, orange and red. Some sets of double stars have nice contrasting colors like Alberio (a star in the constellation Cynus) which are yellow and blue. The Stoplight double star in Cassiopeia are red and blue. Many observers see the blue star as greenish, which is a trick your brain does to you as there are no green stars. Most double stars seem to be white and white such as Polaris the North Star. There are two types of double stars. Optical doubles are where one star is behind the other optically and not gravitationally influencing each other due to their large distance apart. Regular double stars are where the two stars are orbiting each other.
Star parties are a great place for all ages to visit. It is amazing to see kids faces light up when they see craters on the Moon, the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, etc… and remember to dress warmly!
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