Astronomy Benalla
Reports - 2011
Astronomy Benalla  Dark Sky Site Report - Saturday 4th June 2011 Winter brings long dark nights (of 12 plus hours) for lots of viewing time, however it is also cold and damp.  Astronomy Benalla, because of poor weather this year, has missed out on viewing for several months, but this month  our patience was rewarded with a beautiful cloud free clear night.  Wayne, David and Cynthia romped up early and had their Dobsonian telescopes set up, ready for action as the dusk  disappeared into darkness and the thin, two day-old waxing crescent Moon showed through. Cynthia, our Moon  specialist, was first to swing her telescope westwards to focus on its giant craters and had visitors in raptures over  the clarity her 10” diameter light bucket produced.   Next to pop its shining head through the darkness high in the sky was the second largest planet in the solar system,  the brilliant ringed planet Saturn. Picked up by Wayne’s 12” Dobsonian, not only did they see the Cassini division, a  4,700 km space between the A & B rings, but also four of its larger moons - what a bonus!  With the southernmost constellations now high in the sky, the bright sparkling constellations in Centaurus were the  next draw cards. Next on Wayne’s list were our biggest globular cluster, omega Centauri consisting of millions of  stars, and then the dust-lined giant elliptical galaxy Centaurus A, at about 12 million light years distance. Meanwhile,  David caught up with two beautiful sparkling open clusters in the constellation Carina, NGC 2516, a naked eye  cluster called the Diamond Cluster because of its clarity, and IC 2602, known as the Southern Pleiades.   Other members to brave the cold conditions and put their eyes to the telescopes were Anne, Gwen, Graham and  Rupe.  Unfortunately, by 8:00pm the high humidity and a drop in temperature caused lenses to fog up as the dew point was  reached, so ending our viewing and forcing all to retire to the pavilion for an early supper.   Don’t forget to get up and view the Luna Eclipse at 6:00am on Thursday, 16th June. Rug up, happy viewing and wishing you clear and dark skies.
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