Tuesday, 4 July 2017

ESAC Star Party 2017

The ESAC Astronomy Club organized the annual Summer Solstice Star Party on Friday June 30, 2017, coinciding with the newly ESA adopted #AsteroidDay.
ESAC 2017 Star Party

Despite an unforeseen cloud cover, over 500 enthusiastic people gathered at the ESAC premises in Villafranca del Castillo, Madrid, to enjoy this ESAC open night. Around 25 telescopes were mounted by several invited amateur associations (~50 astronomers) and the ESAC Astronomy Club, to allow the audience (411 external visitors) a wonderful and varied observation experience. The event was supported by 45 ESAC staff and contractors.
Setting up the telescopes

The first part of the Party was the Satellite Tour, conducted by Michel Breitfellner and Larry O'Rourke.  This was a general introduction to ESA and ESAC with description of our ESA space missions. The walking tour stopped at the outdoor scale models on-site (Rosetta, ISO, Herschel, SOHO) and the impressive VIL-1 15m radio-antenna.
Satellite Tour at the Rosetta scale model
Herschel and VIL-1 during the satellite walk tour

After that, Eduardo Ojero delighted 250+ people with an astronomy master class in the full main ESAC auditorium, in preparation for the observations to come (video here).
Eduardo Ojero during the general astronomy talk

After the talks, visitors relaxed and had some food and drinks in the air conditioned areas. Meantime the skies started to clear up. Some time after twilight there were enough patches in the clouds to start enjoying the Moon and the main gas planets, and the second part started. Jupiter, its four Galilean moons, Saturn and the highly tilted ring system raised the first wows of the audience. Observers could enjoy Jupiter's main belt and zone bands, Saturn's rings Cassini division, plus around 5 small Saturnian icy moons. After midnight the telescopes pointed to double star systems and fainter objects like nebulae and star clusters. People could also take home pictures of their favorite objects with their smart phones.

The Moon, Jupiter and Saturn were projected live in a large screen, and several satellites were seen crossing the night sky. The brightest sight was the Chinese Tiangong-1 space station, that will re-enter into Earth's atmosphere in a few months. So one of the last chances for many to see this object in space.
Spica, Jupiter, the Moon and a lenticular cloud
Moon projection
The night was accompanied with live spacy music by Ekhi, and visual image projections on the D-building walls.

Observing M13 stellar cluster up the ladder, with image projection on the D-building

Thanks to all organizers and ESAC site services for such a successful night!

Related images:

The main observation site
Leo Metcalfe mounting the 25" (63cm) dobsonian telescope
The observation site on the D-building terrace