Astronomy Benalla
Reports - 2014
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Astronomy Benalla  Viewing Report - Saturday 5th April 2014 Winton Wetlands Astronomy Viewing Platform Successfully Commissioned   After waiting patiently for two years, on Sat April 5th  ‘Astronomy Benalla’  finally and successfully commissioned the newly built viewing platform, recently constructed adjacent to the Lake Mokoan Yacht Club room. After viewing the initial architectural development plans back in 2012 of the 8000 + hectare wetlands, ‘Astronomy Benalla’ was able to suggest to the ‘Winton Wetlands Management Committee’ a far better position for the proposed viewing site. It saved removal of over 50 trees, had a far better view of the sky, and is placed such that the light pollution from the cities of Benalla & Wangaratta is minimal, allowing better viewing of the fainter dark sky objects, e.g. star clusters, nebula and galaxies.  Being adjacent to the old Mokoan Yacht club rooms it saved construction of additional toilets, gave accommodation for astronomers should the weather conditions change as is often the case and a place for a supper break. The platform is large enough to hold about 10 telescopes and their associated transport vehicles; along with the access road it has been capped with gravel making it usable both in summer and winter. On Saturday the weather forecast was for intermittent clouds, and that is what we had. Despite the forecast, a good crowd of visitors were ably entertained by ‘Astronomy Benalla’ with three of their telescopes.  Advertising by the ABC radio and Channel 7 TV resulted in some visitors coming from as far away as Shepparton & Wangaratta with several showing a keen interest in becoming new members. Thanks go to WW ranger Michael Saunders, for opening the venue and bringing his own telescope for the visitors to use. With the odd clouds moving across the sky, the telescopes had to be occasionally pointed to clear sections throughout the evening. Fortunately the five-day Moon was available for most of the night with its huge craters and mountain ranges being the main highlight for the younger of the attending families,  while Jupiter and its four aligned moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto  amazed the older visitors. When the Milky Way showed thru, President Rupe did a sky tour with a laser of the various constellations - Taurus, Orion, Gemini, Crux, Musca and Centaurus, pointing out the nearest star to Earth (bar our Sun), of alpha Centaurus just 4.3 light/yrs away and the super-giant red star of Betelgeuse about 1000 times larger than our Sun. By 10.00pm, thicker cloud caused the viewing to draw to a close, and the very high humidity had the scopes dripping with dew and hard to focus. A short but very successful evening. Rupe Cheetham
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