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Rare Venus-Jupiter Conjunction + Night Hike at Mason Mill Park

The Basics:
Event Type:Hike
Event Location: NE Atlanta near Clairmont Rd & I-85   Hike: Rare Venus-Jupiter Conjunction + Night Hike at Mason Mill Park  National Weather Service Forecast
Date(s) & Time:Mon, Jun 29 2015  8:00 pm >> Mon, Jun 29 2015 10:00 pm
Registration Opens: Sat, Jun 27 2015 9:00 pm
Registration Cut Off: Mon, Jun 29 2015 5:00 pm
Event Duration:2 Hours
Difficulty Rating:D1: Easy
Distance:2 Miles
Trip Leader(s):
Charlie Cottingham
Heidi W.
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Member Cost:None

Participant Info:
Who's Invited: Members Only, 21 And Older Only
Maximum Group Size:15
Minimum Group Size:2
Number Registered So Far: 27 / 0 (To see who's signed up, log in to the Member Area)
Are Dogs Permitted: Yes


SPECIAL NOTE:  The evening sky graphic above depicts the "looping" sequence of positions of Venus from March thru August, 2015, as viewed about 30 minutes after sunset looking west.  The collage also shows the range of apparent shapes of Venus (as viewed through a telescope) which can range from a thin crescent to almost a full circle.  Like the Moon, Venus goes through phases due to the varying angle at which sunlight hits it as viewed from Earth.  The vastly larger planet Jupiter is visible now quite near Venus - about 565 million miles from Earth, while Venus is only about 50 million miles away.  This is why Jupiter appears to be the dimmer of the two

  I hope you can join us for this short AOC "night hike" followed by our group viewing of a rare and beautiful celestial conjunction.  As you may be aware, for the past several weeks our two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, have both been visible high in the western sky after sunset.  Each night they have been getting closer and closer to one another in the constellation Leo due to Venus's faster orbital speed.  In the next few days they'll reach conjunction (their closest angular separation as viewed from Earth) at just 1/3 of one degree - less than the apparent width of your pinky finger at arm's length. Some media sources have hyped this as a "Super-Planet" since Venus and Jupiter will appear to be a single very bright "double star."  Although the minimum separation occurs on Tuesday, the pairing will look virtually the same the night before, and since Monday's weather forecast looks much better than Tuesday's we've planned this group viewing for then.
  My friends and fellow astronomy buffs Herm Donatelli and Harry Falise both plan to bring their  telescopes and we'll also have several pairs of binoculars on hand to share.  We expect to have nice telescopic views of the "crescent-moon" June 29th appearance of Venus.  Also with the scopes we'll likely get to enjoy the Galilean moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, the craters of the Moon, and lots of nice constellations.
  So please join us at 8:00 PM Monday evening!  It's expected to be in the comfortable low 80s falling into the high-70s with mostly clear skies and only about a 10% chance of any rain.  We'll gather just inside the Mason Mill Park entrance by the stone restroom building and the kids' playground.  (See detailed Directions below).   We'll begin with an easy 1-hour hike (about 2 miles) on the lovely trails that connect Mason Mill & Medlock Parks here in NE Atlanta near Emory and conclude the event with our "sky watch" from the high wooden deck on the PATH Trail. We can also enjoy some telescopic observing from the parking lot near our cars.
  After the group "sky watch" we'll target being back at the cars by 10:00 PM.  Feel free to "split" early from the group if you must, but please let us know when you do so - it will be easy to direct you back to the parking lot.

Bring your well-behaved dog if you like, but please make sure that he or she is leashed and under your control at all times.

Feel free to observe the slightly closer Venus-Jupiter "cosmic dance" on your own on Tuesday night - also on any other nights in the next few weeks!  If the clouds cooperate you should be able to do so (between about 9 PM and 11 PM) from anywhere in metro 
Atlanta that has a clear view of the western sky above where the sun has set.  The "good-ol' naked eye" is all you really need!

ABOUT the PARKS & TRAILS:  Mason Mill and Medlock are two pretty DeKalb County parks located just east of Clairmont Road near Emory University and the VA Hospital.  They conveniently connect with one another via a network of hiking/biking paths and boardwalks.  The mile-long South Peachtree Creek Trail is the main trail through this shady corridor, and like the better known Silver Comet Trail it was designed and built to the high standards of the "PATH Foundation."  The trail features a half-mile-long raised deck through the forest canopy above the rocky creek.  Another exciting portion of this trail takes us over the railroad track via a 3-stories-high wooden walkway and deck.  Hikers are treated here to aerial views of the restored ruins of the early-20th-Century Decatur Waterworks, and the high deck is also a great spot for viewing sunsets, the moon, stars & planets, comets and meteor showers.
  Lots of creekside spur trails branch from the PATH trail into the surrounding forest and are fun to explore on the return hike.  By fording Peachtree Creek we can access Ira Melton Park which features a half-mile-long white-blazed loop trail.
  Another option (but more suitable for a 3-hour hike) is to walk a few blocks beyond Medlock to lovely Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve and include a short "wetlands" loop there before heading back via Medlock to our vehicles at Mason Mill.

FOR a COLOR MAP of SOUTH PEACHTREE CREEK TRAIL and its interconnecting DeKalb County parks (Mason Mill, Medlock, Ira Melton & Clyde Shepherd) click on this link:

Required Items to Bring:

• Wear comfortable well-broken-in Athletic Shoes or Hiking Boots and Lightweight Clothing appropriate for the weather, and if you have a lightweight Headlamp or Flashlight it might come in handy after dark.

• Hydrate in advance and carry in your Daypack or Fanny Pack a filled Water Bottle or your "Camelbak" or other hydration system.

Recommended Items to Bring:
Use our Event Checklists to make sure you have everything you need.

-If you have Binoculars, a Telescope, a SmartPhone with a "Sky App," etc., please consider bringing!

-Consider bringing some lightweight Snacks or Picnic Items in your fanny pack or daypack.  We can enjoy these at a couple of scenic stops along the way and share any extras.

- If you have Trekking Poles, consider bringing them - a few spots along our route may be a bit steep.  A simple shoulder-high Hiking Stick works about as well to improve stability and to let your upper body reduce the burden on your legs and knees.

How to Get There:
Event Directions:

FROM the I-85 CLAIRMONT ROAD EXIT in NE METRO ATLANTA to our MASON MILL PARK Meetup Spot:   (For a zoomable color MAP and satellite view of this spot and its vicinity click on the square blue & green "Event Location" near the top of this article.)

1. From the I-85 "Clairmont Road" Exit (Exit #91) in NE Atlanta take Clairmont Rd southward (toward Decatur) about 2.3 miles to the traffic light at McConnell Drive.  (This is the next light south of the big Clairmont/ North Druid Hills intersection.  If you reach the huge VA Hospital you've gone a couple of blocks too far!)

2. Turn Left onto McConnell Drive, go just 0.1 mile, and turn Right at the stop sign to stay on McConnell. 
(Note the small "Mason Mill" directional sign here.)

3. Then turn Left almost immediately at the
 "Mason Mill Park" entrance sign into the large free parking lot.  We'll gather by the stone Restroom building near that main entrance adjoining the children's playground.

LAT/LON COORDINATES of the Mason Mill Park spot where we'll meet: (You GPS or users may wish to augment my above verbal directions by entering these map coordinates as your destination address.)

* We encourage all members to follow our Etiquette Guidelines while participating in AOC events.

Cost Includes:

Free Event with Free Parking!

Cancellation/Partial Attendance:   Please review the AOC cancellation policy.