Monday, April 16, 2012

First Side By Side Solar 4/15/12

Finally here: The Sidewalk Guy Solar Observatory. All the pieces and parts in one place and what a day to try them out on with Old Sol gushing plasma in all directions!

I want to thank everyone who has supported me w/ encouragement, dollars, advice. Having this is a dream come true! Outreach is a passion for me and this will only help in that pursuit.

I still have some minor bugs to work out in as far as balancing, and shared field of views, and a dovetail bar purchase. But the first day out was a treat for me and those who shared in the Solar Show! Folks enjoyed the multi wavelength views which offer something to anyone no matter what the vision is like!

Tom made the first serious view of the day and really enjoyed the new active region in the west w/ it's growing spots and torches!

Jeremiah went back and forth between the scopes easily associating activity seen in each scope!

This trio made my day. Out for a causal stroll in the NV sunshine they came upon my Solar station to be captured by Sol's Sunday Matinee. Views, texts, pics, phone calls to friends ensued w/ others coming to take it in!

Thank you Sun for the fun!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dings & Nicks Astronomy

This past Sunday found me on cold recovery/prevent defense against further infection mode. Folks around me have been dropping like flies with this stuff and I did not want to make mine worse or spread the cheer to another. So with a need for some astronomy some Solar fun on the patio seemed about right. Yes sunlight on my face and some narrow red band in my eye will perk the guy up! But I almost did not make it to this private therapy observe.....

I am grateful for the astro gear I have and use it all. Nothing ultra hi tech or super fancy. But I have have a disturbing problem with my gear and that is what I call "Nick & Ding Astronomy".

I like most in our hobby value what I own and have a sense of pride of ownership. It is always fun to go to astro events and see all the bing and better to look through the bing! One thing that has always amazed me is just how pristine everyone else's gear looks; hence my problem.

No matter how hard I try, plan, think ahead, exercise care etc my stuff is gonna get some battle scars! Here are some examples:

My AstroTec Alt/Az recently took up diving! Yes diving off the shelf head first with a half twist! OK this is not a premium setup but its mine and I love it. So now it has a dandy scar on the head to with all the other nicks it has received since joining my household! Oh yea the altitude movement is a little stiffer since the fall......

Oh this really frosted my cake. Yes even 60mmLunt could not escape trouble! I handled this scope like a new born when it arrived and waited patiently for all the other pieces to show up due to holiday shipping snafus.

Please note that the dovetail bar needs 3 washers to properly seat the scopes mounting one told me this so Lunt received a nice series of dings and scratches against its nice pearl like finish. Imagine "feeling the tube scratch" as you rotate it! I was heartbroken........for days. There's more the very same day! Oh CR150 had a date too with my clumsiness. To make the story short this beloved scope has had its battles getting dinged in transport, knocked over by a drunk at a paid star party which broke the original focuser. But today while trying to forget about the above mistake with the Lunt a wrench fell out of my hand onto the scopes tube and produced a wonderful nick down to the base metal. This along with more scratches produced by my not having the rings seated properly! I amaze myself some days.....but there's more!

AT106 Le is not a premium Apo scope. But it is my Apo scope well loved and used. On it's first outing in my garage it recieved the nicks you see on the retractable dew shield; all because I did not have the altitude tension tight enough. Yes I learned that a 4" 3 unit lens set is heavy! Oh there were scratches too on the tube from the tube rings being out of alignment!

Here's some more. The AT ALT/AZ 's tray has been bent 3 times; once in the "dive" once in the car, and the nicking of AT106 LE !

My observing chair is very battle scared! One heavy weight guy bent the seat supports in the back just by sitting on now my bottom is sideways when I sit!

Here's my latest incident that almost kept me from my therapy Solar observe. This really nice sun shield from ScopeStuff did a fall off the shelf as I was reaching for other items! It's nice enamel finish dinged down to the metal.

Speechless.......but the sky is clearing and SOHO/SDO are showing great Solar activity so I suck it up and press forward.

Oh this eyepiece a few months back had a "tumble" and now sees paint flakes across the field of view which mimic sunspots or UFO's coursing across the moon! Fun to fake out people on outreaches.....

Time and space will not allow me to tell you about the dings & nicks with my dobs!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Debbie & Caleb Astro

The past Thursday we had a very fine Ganymede shadow transit to see in the early evening. I have found in my experience that the public could easily see these events with moderate skies and some coaching at the scope. Besides they turn into excellent educational experiences for those who want to broaden their knowledge and experience base.

So with good sky I head out to the Sparks Marina for a few hours of outreach fun.

Upon my arrival there is a lady stretching out next to her car as I am backing in my space. A look of curiosity is on her face as I park. Is it the inflatable Earth's and gear in my back seat or am I parking to close for comfort? Well as it turns out my reputation has reached her ear and she asks "Are you the astronomy guy I heard so much about?" "Why yes I am and at your service" was my quick reply!

"I want to learn about the moon!" was Debbie's first & fast request. "But when?"

"Well how about now. Let's get familiar with Luna's phase cycle as I just so happen to have my mini moon stryo balls in the planet scale kit!" By the way I have not even unloaded and set up yet as I must catch this opportunity of astro interest!

And off we go. My new pupil is indeed a eager learner. Here she is modeling the new moon placing the mini moon ball between her and the Sun. After 10 minutes or so she has the Moon Cycle down! Now she will have to be a observer and see it for real which she is ready to do. After an exchange of phone numbers she is off to round up some friends for the fast approaching Jupiter show as this is a moon event to be enjoyed with others!

Vicky at the scope was totally impressed with this 3D Jove Treasure Trove of Mooness taking place before her eyes! For there is a shadow amok on the cloud tops of Jupiter! These ladies braved the sudden chill of early February with such cheer. Debbie's excitement opened a wonderful experience to her pals.

Not to be left out in the cold Caleb got a eye full too. Doing laps with his mom on his bike he had to be a part of this moonfest! He was one serious observer nailing the transit, moons, belts, and swirls in the belts, polar hoods of Jupiter! Hey he looks like a amateur astronomer already! Mom was totally impressed and never realized her son liked this astronomy stuff!

But there was more fun to be had with our one day past full "waning more moon"on the rise over our eastern foothills! Perfect timing for my new lunar addict to get subjected to the SUG JUMBO MOON ILLUSION EMERSON ! OMG timing is everything and this moonrise was awesome with a jumbo maze colored orb kissing our foothills; and I just happened to have the cardboard tube to help dispelled the illusion which left Debbie & friends aghast!

What a evening it was. My people count was low but meeting Debbie & friends along with Caleb made this outing a success.

Why is Debbie so interested in learning about Luna? Well her budding passion is to photograph Luna every month along our foothills and mountains. This night helped to set the stage for this endeavor in the mind and heart!

Thanks Debbie for letting me be a part of your new passion!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl Weekend Astro

Clear sky and cool temps continue so out we go!

Friday evening found me at Starbucks doing a Moon/Jupiter/ Star Stuff program. StarStuff is where I show off a Star Cluster or Nebula dejour' and present Stellar Evolution. This is usually well received and most are excited to be able to see the M41-42 complex from a suburban setting! This old C8 gives nice contrasty views and with some patience most saw lots of detail.

Jonathan was totally digging the Lunar Poles and crater hopping all over the place!

Sunday morning found me at the Marina Park for a 3 hour Super Bowl SUNday program. The place was busy with folks getting the fresh air, exercise, and sunshine this cool morning before heading out to cheer their team. The park security team was excited at my presence and promptly got on the ATV and promoted the Sidewalk Guy around the complex - Nice! Soon folks were coming by expecting something good and good they got with Sol putting on a magnetic display easy for all to see!

On this outing I just happened to met the owner of the most popular used bookstore in town and she really enjoyed what I was doing. So now we are planning an event for her store in March/April. This was a good encounter and I am looking forward to this!

I had 80 visitors in the course of these events.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Jan 2012 Starbucks Update

This has been a fun and busy outreach month for me here in N.NV! With our winter being very mild I have had plenty of good opportunities to share the sky with my fellow citizens!

Here are some pics from my two Coffee, Chromosphere & Crater events held at my local Starbucks Coffee on the 14/28th of this month. The Solar pic is courtesy of the Swansea Astronomical Society (U.K) which shows our similar Chromospheric view we had on the 28th with the Lunt 60mm!

I have had a good response to these events with folks coming by via Facebook invitations, word of mouth and just coming in to grab a drink and socialize. The patrons are caught off guard and are asking the staff what is going on out there!
Most will come over and check out the astro show!

I wanted to include this pic so you could see my setup spot. It is on the S.E. corner of the patio in front of the store. At this spot everyone driving in & out has to see me. The drive up exit is in front of the scope. Throughout my sessions drive up folks stopped, conversed, parked, and looked! These folks were serviced quickly as most had time constants and were appreciative of the drive up astro experience! I had planned on moon observes with these events but on both she was hidden at the prescribed times both waning and waxing but the Solar views in the "red" left many spellbound with coffee & tea in hand!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

First Light Trial Public Narrow Band Viewing 1/12/11

Our day today was so mild and with a blue sky over head the views were bound to be good so lets do a short trial run with the public on the Lunt 60THA.

Saturday morning will have me at StarBucks doing a "Chromosphere, Crater & Coffee" outreach on their patio. You guessed it Solar and Moon in the morning and early afternoon! I want to be ready and get all the bugs out of my operation so today is the perfect time with the park lightly used but "lookers" still available. This was not a numbers outreach but a test run on using the scope, coaching folks at the scope, a general rehearsal for my spiel, and scope set up.

No resource table for the StarBucks events. Just the basics - outreach binder, Atlas Of The Universe, Solar System/Universe Scale Model, Jumbo Styro Ball (moon cycle), Solar Ball, Lunar Map, and handouts - lots of them!

I will start out with the morning moon (AT106) and then move into Solar when the Sun is at a good observing height. Later I hope to have another AstroTec ALT/AZ set up to have Solar Wedge & Ha at the same time.

Ha scopes can be tough to look through for one who has not had much (or any) scope time in their lives. When I was doing outreach for the non profit I had a Coronado Solar Max 40mm to use which was a nice scope! But with the narrow field of view and small "sweet spot" and ghosting a fair amount of folks had trouble seeing. How would the Lunt 60 do?

Jeff is one of the guards at the park and is a great supporter of my efforts. I so wanted him to be the first to view and I would value his opinion highly. Needless to say timing was great and he was treated to a whole array of different prom, spicuale, filament, facuale features. No trouble looking through this scope for him or any other person so inclined to stop. Jeff made detailed observes and was blown away. I will be using my Orion Stratus eyepieces - look at the large eyepiece lens, see the bright red ball(exit pupil) that's your window to the Sun! Every time complete beginners were lining up with Sol in the scope first time!

I saw some spicuales today that blew me away!

Joe was a first time observer and let me coach him at the scope for a good 20 minutes and was seeing changes in the Solar environment by the minute - first time!

The Scope Stuff Sun Shield is awesome! Look at that shadow on the observer with no glare to contend with!

All and all I am so pleased and stoked. The Lunt 60 tha (not because I own it) is better than expected. Flat field, no sweet spot, minimal ghosting, black black field of view, easy easy to look through, built like a tank with excellent finish!

What more can a SUG ask for? Well two things; clear sky and a horde of people to show the Sun off too!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2012 StarBucks Coffee & Cosmos PatioAstro

This winter season sure is a mild one for us western USA types. With temps in the 50/60's and fairly clear conditions I have no reason to not get the 2012 outreach season going! So here are two events I have done so far......

January 4-5 marked Perihelion as the Earth reached it's closest approach to the Sun and is a outreach I like to do if weather and time permit. Awesome day was to be had at the Sparks Marina with 38 visitors. Dave, a former Army Recon Scout (Desert Storm & Panama!) really enjoyed the Sol show and the hands on modeling of this program. He also made detailed Sunspot observes and caught the sudden brightening of a isolated faculae on the S.E edge! Timing is everything!

The double shadow transit of Jupiter's moons Io and Ganymede the following evening made for some fun driveway observing. Moderate winter temps and hazy sky greeted us but we had no trouble watching the event unfold. Tom joined me for this shadow dance and his observing eye is developing quickly.

2012 also brings Coffee & Cosmos to local area StarBucks and this Friday evening was as good as any to give it a go. I have been wanting to do outreach at this particular one because it faces due east with a reasonable view from the N.E to S.E. Not having any contacts within the store I was not sure how I would be received so I was a little nervous just walking in, ordering a drink and "oh I'm the Sidewalk Universe Guy mind if I set up on your patio to share the cosmos?"

I was just gonna set up and see what happens but thought the better of it so in I go to ask this very unique request. Well things went my way as the shift manager knew me from my outreaches at the Marina Park!!! and soon I was off and running! Liane loves coffee and had fun hanging out with the SUG. A busy professional wedding planner she needed a break from the day and got treated to the Jove up in our sky. She was very encouraging and liked this outreach stuff.

I had a line most of the 3 hours out with customers from the nearby eateries coming over to check things out. Most were excited to look at Jupiter with the Galilean Moons on full display.

I had so many nice folks stop, look, talk and generally appreciate the experience. But this young lady made my night. Coming in and out of the Panda Express next door several times over she got a eye full of the evenings servings. She had a very defined "Lunar Bliss" moment observing sunrise on the Grimaldi Crater Complex! I was amazed at her interest level and zeal at the scope!

Coming soon will be a StarBucks SUG Solar on this very patio!