To start off the evening, Louise hosted us at her house just outside of Charlottesville for a feast worthy of Wizarding royalty. The menu included Shepherd’s pies, “Leek”y Cauldron soup (with optional BACON), an array of sweet treats (including Treacle Tart, Cauldron Cakes, and Acid Pops), and a truly wizz-bang Butterbeer tasting. The Butterbeer tasting included four options – Honeyduke’s Bottled, Aberforth’s “No Underage Wizards Allowed” Brew, Winky’s Quick-Mix, and Rosmerta’s Homemade (check out the recipes on our Facebook) – which guests could rate. While filling up on sugar and delicious carbs, we were almost thwarted by a sudden, strong thunderstorm that struck. A quick call to the observatory confirmed that they would still show us around, so we packed into three Ford Anglias for the quick trip to the UVA campus.
Once at the McCormick Observatory, we explored the museum and handled a meteorite. Then, Chris took us into the dome itself to look at the telescope and tell us about its history. The telescope is 32.5 feet long and dominates the room; however, it’s well-balanced and several of us tried our hands at manually moving it around the space. Chris also showed us the original, 19th-century telescope chair which revolves around the telescope on a track and can be raised and lowered with a set of rope pulleys (several of us tried out both features). If, for example, a wizard wanted to look at a celestial object close to the horizon, you would have to be quite high in the chair in order to line your eye up to the lens.
After the hands-on portion, we adjourned to a lecture led by Larry. He taught us quite a few things about the moon, the planets, and our place in the greater universe.
Thank you to Louise, Chris, and Larry for such a great night!