Astronomers share excitement over harvest moon, night sky with large crowd.
By Zachary-Taylor Wright
A petite, rambunctious woman excitedly announced the visibility of Venus as she rushed in front of cars on Lot 21, without so much as a glance to her left or right, with binoculars in hand and a finger frantically gesturing to the pastel pink sky created as the sun set over Candler Physical Education Center.
“There’s Venus — we have Venus!” shouted Danielle Rappaport, member and outreach coordinator for the San Antonio Astronomical Association.
She maintained this excitement for the remainder of Scobee Education Center’s Harvest Moon Star Party Sept. 16, allowing her vibrancy to permeate the setting.
Rappaport was among 1,000 people who attended the party, which gave visitors a chance to view the harvest moon, planets and stars through three telescopes on Scobee’s rooftop terrace, as well as a larger telescope inside the center.
Rappaport explained to visitors the composition of different planets.
“The large amounts of iron-oxide are what give Mars its red color,” she told a registered nurse who works at Northeast Central Baptist.
Rappaport’s passion for the astronomical was mirrored on the faces of small children, retired adults and everyone between that swarmed Lot 21 and the sidewalk between Scobee and Candler.
Some young visitors had never seen the sky through a telescope the size of an average sedan and with a magnification of 200, like the one in Scobee’s Scanlan Foundation Observatory.
Diego Rivera, a junior at Health Careers High School, was impressed by “how accessible it was to me — imagining all the pieces, engineering and science.”
Rivera provided a point of reference for audience members who didn’t make it to the Scanlan Observatory to see Saturn and stayed on ground level to use the telescopes provided by SAAA.
“It was as if I was looking though a microscope at a particle so intricate. It’s amazing how something so large can compare to something so small,” Rivera said.
Krystal Jones, senior brand manager for the convention and visitors bureau, was excited to learn about Scobee and to see the harvest moon.
“I’ve never been here before, and when I first saw this event, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to see the harvest moon,” Jones said.
Varner explained what inspires people to wait for two hours in lines that slithered from the elevator to the wall of Scobee and wrapped around twice.
“It’s like time travel if you think about it,” Varner said. “When you’re looking at Mars, the light you’re looking at was there 30 minutes ago.”
Varner said it was an impressive turnout considering it was not a unique celestial event and that upwards of 6,000 people can attend extremely unique celestial occurrences.
Varner described the fuel behind his passion for events like the Star Party.
“It’s for the little boy that comes out and says, ‘This is the largest telescope I’ve ever seen in my life,’” Varner said. “It’s the joy in parents’ eyes as they see the joy their children get from learning.”
Scobee plans to officially reopen in early October after tweaking its new projection system.
For more information, visit sacscobee.org.