We joined the gathering last Friday early – too early, it turned out, for a view of much of anything. It was an overcast night and I had to leave before the moon (then nearly full) exploded into view.
The amateur astronomers have been meeting at the Ed Burke Recreation Center in the middle of Biscayne Park for about a month now. Last week, two telescopes – one computer-driven and scarily hi-tech for a father of three- and five-year-old kids, the other more old-fashioned – stood at the ready of the assembled dozen or so stargazers.
Still, we got a look at Jupiter – my daughter pointed out that the stripes were orange and “not red” – and a binary solar system – you know, two stars. That full moon would have been the most spectacular of all. It did briefly burst onto the scene, I later learned from organizer and amateur astronomy buff Brett Shinn, before the group “got clouded out around 10:00 p.m.”
Shinn maintains an email list where he keeps his fellow skywatchers informed about the latest weather forecasts and the probability of clear skies.
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There’s only a slight chance the group will reconvene tonight, given the 50 percent chance of rain. “Even if they lower it to 30 or 40 percent, it’s still pretty cloudy,” says Shinn. “Looking at the bottom of clouds is like watching gray paint dry.” --Frank Houston