Thursday, May 28, 2009

Things Both Old And New

I had every intention of doing a street program last night with the Moon, Gemini, Saturn as the featured showings. But when it came down to it I was just to tired from a busy day of work around the home and care of the family - besides clouds and haze had rolled in. Low and behold about 10 p.m. things cleared out some. I felt a evening of quiet contemplation with some of my old friends and buddies was in order - time to ponder and enjoy the simple things like the movement of the sky over an hour or how far is that star and what is it's Arabic name. I had my trusty astronomy chair, iced green tea, and backyard lighting off and I was ready to go! I had these items to guide me on my evening foray into the sky, my old things; Collins Guide Stars and Planets by Ian Ridpath held together with packing tape, Miller Star Wheel, and my all time favorite "The Star Guide" by Steven Beyer not so held together even with packing tape. Some newer things to enjoy like a fresh LED flashlight, June issue of Sky And Telescope, along with my new S&T Pocket Sky Atlas.

What a fun evening with the stars and constellations. I was remembering back to when I was 10 years old learning the sky for the first time. Seeing the seasonal change of the sky over just a few hours, learning the actual names of stars from the ancient cultures. Light years and star type or class did not mean to much back then, but the thrill of seeing and tracing the sky did. The sky became my best buddy and friend and has remained so ever since. Sometimes it is good to just get out to watch the movement of the sky and not get to complex with it. Just enjoy it. I know where the constellations are at just about anytime, but let's use the Miller Star Wheel anyway to relive the past and enjoy the present. I love the turning of the sky! Beyer's book assigns a star to seek out during the evenings of each month and I proceed to seek out these stars assigned to April and May; Arcturus, Izar, Eta Draconis, Giena, Alphecca, Spica, Rastaban, Zeta Herculis. With the help of my trusty aids I rediscover their type, sizes, distences, temperatures ect. But the most important thing for me is seeing them and learning their names handed down from the past! They are life long friends who are there all the time, in season and out. They are waiting for us to go and discover them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

5/19/08 How Big Is This Thing Street Astro

I once again at last minute decided to do a outreach and things worked out pretty good. I really like to be as prepared as possible with a quality presentation and solid data base so my guests can really learn and enjoy the universe and it's wonders. But when it is said and done it is about people not me. It is not what I know or present but it is about providing for my peeps a chance to smile and enjoy gift of nature.

Amanda and Daniel stopped by early on and were hooked right for the start. Daniel could not get his eye off Saturn! Questions flowed about all sorts of astronomical things. They participated in 2 modeling exercises and listened intently as I worked with other visitors. The needs of their little daughter required them to head home but they will be back to learn of the Moon when we start that again! I had 57 visitors over a 3 hour time slot. I am out later with the longer days and we have many mid-evening walkers who have not seen the astro guy yet. More folks to hook and reel in on this astronomy stuff!

5/19/08 How Big Is This Thing Street Astro

I felt like it was time for a shift in my program - so back to the NASA Night Sky Network's tool kits to pull out some new things to inspire and bewilder my visitors with. The size and scale of our universe and it's contents is always a fun thing to do. With the simple materials provided in this kit it is really easy to present this topic with any object within our Solar System as a starting point and work out from there. Saturn is available so we started there after a fun telescope view.

Kyle and Dawn were my first takers on this short excursion across our local universe. Kyle is a teacher and Dawn works at the University. In our lesson we covered planet sizes, light time, scale of the Milky Way and Kyle went away with goodies to share with his students! With other visitors I was able to cover star sizes and distances to other galaxies. Special thanks Kyle and Dawn for being my first victims of this celestial onslaught from the astro guy!

Memorial for the Sidewalk Guy

My friend Mike from "Drive by Astronomy" always comes up with ways inspire and motivate me to continue to meet the public. He has awarded me with my own concrete stamp. The only problem it is back in Buffalo N.Y.!

My mom still calls me Richie after all these years. Some things are just meant to be - we cannot escape our fate!

Monday, May 18, 2009

5-17-09 Long Lines and Late Night Street Astronomy

Here go again after another longer than expected break than - this evenings program more than made up for any down time ! I had over 70 visitors with the warm of a mid-spring evening and early morning. People were out in mass and enthusiasm! Barely had the scope set up and a line of 20 plus and as folks filtered through the line just grew! Needless to say my encounters were brief and I did not have ample opportunity to dispel all the pseudo-science and misconceptions there but several where exposed to a Solar System presentation. There was lots of laughter and fun conversation between folks as they waited to view Saturn along with delight over the free astronomy handouts from NASA. If folks are happy just being together sharing in something bigger than all of us it is good! The Universal Unifier - the Universe!

Torrie in the pic has been a regular visitor to my little cosmic outpost, and was one of my very first visitors right at the beginning of Sidewalk Universe back in November '08. She is a warm and friendly person who loves nature and science and comes by to absorb photons and smile at all the nature presents to us. Torrie works for one of our local non-profits in community service work and like many is very curious about how nature works but not a science major type person. Her constant awe over what she observes, how it effects her is a joy to listen to. Last night we started on sky navigation with her and she had the very first views of of early summer objects low on the horizon! She is always breaking new ground with this outreach!

Needless to say it was a very late night - but folks like Torrie make this so worthwhile. I got home at a very insane hour with the summer sky ensconced in the east and southeast without the park light pollution and just spent time taking it in with a bowl of cereal in hand. My back yard is my little refuge, and the universe is my playground and bully pulpit. I am one very fortunate person!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

One WOW Astronomy Day Event

My good friend and fellow astronomy outreach guy Mike with his merry band of intrepid astronomy geeks back in Buffalo N.Y. did a program that you must see! I had to rob this photo from Mike for this depicts why we do what we do- priceless! Mike you guys are awesome and your city is very lucky to have the dedicated group that you are!

Mike's blog is Drive-by

Friday, May 8, 2009

Luna Tilting Act 5/07/09

Before I packed up my belongings last night I took a few minutes to enjoy the wonderful tilting action of our Moon which allows us to see about 59% of the Lunar surface. Last nights eastern tilt was spine tingling to a lunar observer like me! On the very edge you will see Mare Marginis (L) and the ancient Mare Symthii Basin(R) with it's impact origin rim right on the lunar edge!. Can you see kitty's smiling face near Marginis? This astronomy thing always delivers the goods for me - how about you?

5/7-9/09 " More Moon" And Saturn Street Astro

I had not planned to go out this evening but it was so pretty - spring is finally here! "More Moon" tonight, not full just yet though many would say that it is full. " More Moon" is a phrase I coined when Luna is 1 day or so out from full or one day past full. Along with Saturn in a predominate place in Leo sounds like the making of a fun program to give to the general public. I had just started to set up the scope when folks began to stop by to inquire and before I had the tripod set in place I had a line a eager astronomy deprived folks wanting a look at the "full moon"already 12 degrees above the foothills in the southeast with the Sun just barely set. Not a full moon but a "More Moon". What an opportunity to model Luna's revolution around the Earth and her phase cycle. I bet I will now have some folks looking for that true full moon today at sun set with new info and skills for determining when that is! Well with all this activity I had no time to set up my resource table has the line of inquires was growing and questions coming from all sides! We finally made it to Saturn and the lines grew longer so I had to wing it tonight without my teaching aids. This nice couple came by toward the end of the evening and totally enjoyed Saturn and it's moons. We had an excellent discussion about the universe as a whole and man's experience with it both in scientific and philosophical terms. All of us need to experience the wonderful cosmos first hand with our own eyes, mind, soul and spirit. I had 54 visitors tonight and I only wish I could have given more personal attention to them!

I decided to try a Saturday night program and I am glad I did. Shortly after setting up on the west side of the Sparks Marina I had a line of interested folks anticipating a view of Saturn. One fellow by the name of Jim, came by early on and was glued to the scope enjoying Saturn and later in the evening was doing detailed lunar and double star observations. He stayed with our program tonight for 2 hours just taking it all in! I left my camera at home so no picture of Jim but I'm sure I well be seeing him again. All in all I had fun people to work with, and a total of 45 visitors exposed to the universe.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gruithuisen Mons and Saturn Street Astro

After a long string (for us here in N.Nv) of winter like weather it was out to show off of some Solar System delights near and far. Near we have lunar land forms which at their local daybreak show excellent relief, symmetry, and shadows. One of these this night were the Gruithuisen Domes which are tall dome like mountain massifs around 20 km in diameter and 1860 m in height which are seen right of center in the picture. These are large pieces of real estate! Along with the Jura Mt's - Sinus Iridium, and sunrise on the Aristarchus crater rim my visitors where treated to some fun lunar sights! Far we have the Solar Systems top dog Saturn with it's intrepid icy moons. Discussions arose over ring origins and the Solar System flip book helped my guest to understand the major differences between our Moon and Saturn's little army of icy orbs. It was nice out be out again with the public! I had 28 visitors for my short stay before the winds picked up.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

5-02-09 Have Not Been Able To Go Out and Do It Street Astro

Ok, I make my previous posting with great anticipation of a few evenings of fun showing off the universe to my neighbors here in Northern Nv. Well it turns out the Sierra's can not decide if it is Spring or Winter - so I have had a weather bust over the last four days. Today is Astronomy Day where astronomy clubs across the country traditionally do public programs to help inspire and inform the public. Because my program is totally visually oriented out in the public walkways I am on the sideline. Because of the amount of good weather we get I just plan on doing programs with out indoor backup - bummer. I saw this picture today on APOD; this is called "The Whale". It is tidally disrupted galaxy located on the border of Coma and the Hunting Dogs. I remember my first view of this galaxy and it's associated galaxy group left me spellbound! Today it makes me happy! This is one of the finest pics I have ever seen of it; click on it and enjoy the view! I find it interesting how galaxies can get so distorted due to interactions.............I wonder what our Milky Way looks like from a similar distance - I bet we would see some bending!