Starry, Starry Night

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On Friday, December 2, Jordan Brown of Gulfport gets his first look at the moon through “such a sophisticated telescope” thanks to two volunteers from the St. Petersburg Astronomy Club who set up their own equipment during the Art Walks on the first Fridays and third Saturdays of each month in Gulfport, weather permitting, at the intersection of Beach Boulevard S. and 31st Ave. S. from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. “The larger the telescope, the more light is gathered and the brighter the object is when you magnify it through the eyepiece,” said Greg Simpson, outreach coordinator for the club. “We can see the unilluminated part of the moon – the craters and landscape – due to Earth shine,” which is light being reflecting off the earth toward the moon and back to the telescope, said Simpson. “The dark side of the moon – it’s pretty creepy,” said Brown, smiling. On some nights, people will form lines behind each telescope 10 to 15 people deep, said Scott Walsh club member. For more information about the club and opportunities to see distant and fainter objects like nebulas and galaxies, visit stpeteastronomyclub.org.

 

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From left, Scott Walsh and Greg Simpson, show off their night sky-inspired shirts while standing on either side of an 11-inch reflector telescope that is trained on a waxing crescent moon on Friday, December 2. Their motorized telescopes slowly track the Earth’s rotation so night sky objects in the eyepiece stay in view from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The two St. Petersburg Astronomy Club members and serious amateur astronomers have been providing free nigh-sky views and astronomy tips for the public for about 15 years. Because of city streetlights, bright sky objects like the moon and planets are their most common choices in Gulfport because they are easier to see. They also set the mood by playing soft astronomy-inspiring music from a portable boom box. “Music puts me in the right mood,” said Walsh. “It relaxes me. I’m in my own world. But, I bring the world out here so everybody else can see it too.” 

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