|Image Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.|
We actually saw four moons tonight as Io was visible left of the planet.
We arrived a few minutes after 7pm. There were about 10-12 people ahead of us in line. A volunteer entertained the waiting line telling stories of black holes, white dwarves, 1st generation stars and later generation stars.
He explained we were looking at Jupiter tonight as the prior group entered the dome. The SCSon who has just finished reading "2010" and watching "2001" pipes up with "Can we see the Monolith?" That completely derailed his stories of black holes and origins of the elements. Instead he mentioned he found a "Space 2001 action figure" and had to had one. An internet search turned up several references but all are out of stock. Best comment on one of the threads was "I want one of those at the bottom of my fish tank". Followed by "I want a fish tank just to put on of those at the bottom". I LOL'd Gotta love geek humor!
Once inside we had total access to the telescope and the club members present. This wasn't a quick "Hmmm, nice. Now out ya go" We spent several minutes with the crew talking about the planet, it's moons, the nature of the planet and its atmosphere, etc.
In all we spent about 30 minutes on site including waiting in line listening to the stories and inside the dome. I made the $5 family donation on the way out.
Here's how we did it: The Gilbert Rotary Centennial Telescope is a 16 inch Meade telescope on the grounds of the Gilbert Riparian Institute. The East Valley Astronomy Club (EVAC) opens the observatory to the public Friday and Saturday evenings from just after sunset to 9:30-10pm. There is no one at the door demanding or even mentioning donations. The website suggests a $3/person and $5/family donation.
It's one thing to look at an image in a book or on the web but totally different to see it for oneself. The 1st hand experience takes the knowledge to a new dimension. This is what it looks like now, not a some time in the past.
Such a deal! The SandCastle Crew got to use a telescope worth more than the SandCastle itself for less that the price of a couple gallons of gas.
EVAC operates the telescope year round, weather permitting plus they run other programs.
It's well worth the trip especially if you live in the Phoenix metro area and have kids (or visiting grandkids). If not, there is probably a similar program near you.
Full disclosure: I have no connection what so ever with any of the groups mentioned or linked here in. I'm just a satisfied customer.