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Sidewalk astronomy: a good night

A sidewalk astronomy event took place tonight, a part of Westlake Porter Public Library's Customer Appreciation Week. Two amateur astronomers from the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association set up their telescopes near the north end of the library's parking lot and invited visitors to take a look at some amazing celestial objects. After dicey late-afternoon cloud cover the sky cleared in time for setup at 7:30 and viewings from 8:00 to 9:15 PM.  Curious visitors got good views of Jupiter, the Hercules Star Cluster (M13), the Ring Nebula (M57), and the great Andromeda Galaxy (M31). The Ring Nebula was very difficult for most viewers to spot in the eyepiece but it was actually presented well in both telescopes. M13 --a globular collection of several hundred thousand stars-- was a beautiful sight. Andromeda Galaxy was its usual fuzz-ball self but not bad at all, the light from its trillion stars a subtle beauty through the telescope. Jupiter, some 492 million miles distant, was best viewed shortly after sundown. Good moments of seeing revealed multiple cloud bands in addition to the two big equatorial belts, and patient viewers got a good look. Seeing was unsteady at lower angles and as the planet sank lower in the sky, occasional good seeing ended and the planetary disk was unsharp. Thanks to those who braved the chilly temperatures for a good night of sidewalk stargazing!

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