The second annual Astronomy Night at Havana Regional Airport (9I0) in Havana, Illinois, was “without doubt a success,” according to Mike Purpura, Illinois State Liaison for the Recreational Aviation Foundation.
“It was a night of discovery where a small, country airport came alive when over 150 people came together to gaze at the wonders of the universe,” he reported.
“On Sept. 15, the weather Gods cooperated and gave us clear skies with an early setting moon,” he continued, adding 15 airplanes flew into 9I0 for the event.
Joining the pilots were 60 members of the University of Illinois Astronomy club, who brought high-powered telescopes and camera gear.
More than 100 people from town also came to the airport for Astronomy Night.
“Ages 8 to 80 enjoyed the guided tour of the cosmos,” Purpura said.
“The sky darkened, eyes adjusted, and small groups clustered around the scopes,” he relates. “Voices could be heard saying Mars, Milky Way, Saturn, Andromeda, Venus, galaxies. Most would simply name what they wanted to see. As if by magic the astronomers would point their green lasers into the dark sky and say, ‘there it is.’ Then they would swing their big scopes around and line up the object in the view finder. We would take turns looking and being awed by the site.”
Many of the people at Astronomy Night stayed up until 4 a.m.
“Those of us on breakfast detail only made it to midnight,” he said.
The event was organized by the RAF, the Havana Airport Authority, and Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1420.