Monday, April 26, 2010

Post Astronomy Day Outreach

Saturday was the official Astronomy Day nation wide and the day was clear skies and 70's till 6 p.m when the clouds rolled in. Bust and disappointment for a Saturday night at the movie theater with its throngs. I was really looking forward to this outreach. But Sunday remained relatively clear so off we go energized by a fish taco dinner and a zeal to make up for the previous evening. I will get my Astronomy Day programs in! How can I not be a small part of this national effort in outreach education joining my fellow astronomers in bringing the skies to the public? A gibbous Luna, the Saturn ring and moon show, a Venus Pleiades's dance in the west all need to be shown and discussed. Mars overhead, Castor & Pollux, the Dipper on it's handle, arc to Arcturus & speed to Spica, the Zodiac must be understood and put into context.

Sunday evening was fun and I was not even set up when they arrived to look see and be inspired. I had 60-70 visitors with most having heard about my antics in outreach wanting there own personal view and exposure to the Sidewalk Guy. I had folks from Oregon, Louisiana, California visiting the local area partaking and offering invites for astro intoxication in their of the woods.

I guess it was still Astronomy Day after all!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Astronomy Day Kick Off

With the nice weather finely arriving to Northern NV, Astronomy Day upon us, and a busy Zodiacal sky all the ingredients are in place for some fun outreach. This Friday evening event had a lot of energy and fun! I was a busy outreach guy helping folks at the scope, moon modeling, Sidewalk Guy's Planet Round Up, Pocket Solar System, charting the Zodiac and fielding questions.

Luna was really putting on a fine show and many came under her spell as she is indeed the doorway to understanding the Solar System. With the Clavius crater complex, crater Bullialdus central peak, crater Copernicus rim terracing, and the Sinus Iridium Daybreak Light Show featuring a well lit Jura Mtns, wrinkles with shadows, and Luna curvature providing lots of " wows "and "oh mys". Folks were excited about our moon this night and rightly so.

And of course Saturn taking the main stage at dark sealed the deal for many of my visitors. Even with our bright moon and parking lot lighting many wanted to learn the Zodiac. I had folks with their 3G phones programed with the various astro software but still needing some good old fashioned hands on instruction. There will always be work for the Sidewalk Guy!

I had a estimated 80 + photon infected visitors this night.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday In The Park Marathon Outreach Event

What I thought was to be a 3 hour outreach featuring our Sun Earth Moon System turned out to be a outreach long distance race. They just kept coming and coming - and then returning with more family and friends. Was it fun? Yes it was. Was it worth it? Yes as many lives were enriched questions were answered, and a few potential astrophiles added to our ranks .

I started at 2:30 and finally closed shop at 10:15 with folks wanting more but a local brush fire closed us down. Using my NSN tool kits we covered Lunar cratering/phases, scale sizing of the Solar System. Folks loved the Pocket Solar System as it was fun watching people walk off with glee with long strands of register paper flowing in the light breeze excited about their new creation! The power of planets is strong indeed!

I met so many nice folks along with this cutie pie who just loved Luna's wonderfully complex surface. She came by with her folks at just the right time as I had a small break and the scope was hers! It must have seemed monstrous to her but when her eye hit the eyepiece she was transported to new vistas and her nice smile was beaming on her face. This little girl fell for the Moon big time!

At dark Saturn delighted these new astro explorers with Titan in tow and ring shadow giving Saturn a mascara look! Eye make up on a planet, imagine that! All this led to more hands on demos and scale modeling. All in all I am estimating 160+ visitors and one tired outreach guy!

Special thanks to my visitors that supplied me with bottled water, and snacks during my longer than planned stay!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Quickie Outreach With Another Catch

Our skies cleared out a bit and with a lot of Solar System action going on the evening looked to be fun and active. But it was not to be as I had a very short(for me) and lite traffic event - the park just emptied out. But it was fun just to get out as the Lunar and Saturnine views were excellent and the 28 who came by were treated to these.

Here's CR150/UA ready to go!!!!!!!!!

I had a very sparse resource table due to some sunset wind gust which are common here. But it is uncanny how I manage to have just what I need out for the visitors who stop by.

Jessica and Shane love this astronomy stuff. Shane is a devoted watcher of all the current astronomy programs on the airwaves. He is now ready to take the plunge and pursue this as a hobby for himself.

Of course the Sidewalk Guy is available to help with all the enthusiasm, nearby snacks, high energy level he is known for. Just give me a few moments to overwhelm you!

Once you are in my astro grasp your not wiggling free!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Messier Month!!!!!!!

Hey gang it is that time of year again to enjoy and share these far flung objects of photonic delight!

All we need is some clear skies and a crowd of folks to show them too!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

DeepMap 600 & Almond Butter Washed Out Astronomy

Yesterday spring arrived to my storm rattled corner of the universe. After spending a good portion of the day garage spring cleaning and rushing dinner to the table some astro foraging was in order. In my previous post I talked about my 600 Blitz - tonight would be a slower pace, and relaxed photon meal time with galaxies and planetary nebulae on the menu. RED the 10" not so fancy tele with the plumbing piece draw tube focuser was set up, lined up, and primed up. SUG was in his finest warm gear with the 600 DeepMap in hand ready to go. The Venus Mercury dance in the west is coming to a end but it is a pretty sight. Oh what is this I see in the west - oh no high altitude haze rolling in with the tide of Pacific Ocean air! OK I should have a couple of hours of good seeing anyway.

Now it is dark and time to observe and just as I start - Oh no their back!!!!!!!!!!! my neighbors to the south of SUGS eastern facing backyard are back(seasonal renters). Every light in their home is on, first and second floors, beacon like (no kidding folks) light from their front porch, garage floods my yard. Their light is bouncing off my stucco finished home, neighboring house to my north, even my juniper trees are glowing with a sick ashen green! There is no escaping this invasion. I am just beside myself - months they have been gone and tonight they show up!

Mrs.SUG patiently listens to the plight of her spouse - I ask for nothing more than a roof over my head, clothes to wear, something to eat, and some sky to look at! She says "hey if anyone can see stuff out there it is you so go give it a try and you know how to make the best of it!" She's right I gotta make the best of it or sink. RED is game for the challenge so lets go!

My viewing is around mag 4.2 with the haze and lighting soup over head as I lay back in the lounger with a jar of almond butter and spoon in hand to help comfort me and strenghten me for this endeavor. Lets just hang here for awhile. Funny thing is the more almond butter I eat the more I see. Sometimes I can see mag 5, then back to mag 4 even with the neighbors lights blasting through the slates of my fence. OK I am ready to go with comfort food inside and targets in mind.

Galaxies start falling like flies to RED's crude optics. Stray light is all over the place but we are on a quest and we will not be deterred! Even with this photonic intruder from earthly sources flooding RED's tube and eyepieces we are going to make this work.

Here are some of the highlights:
  • M94's core is brilliant with ripples seen just off of it.
  • M51 arms discerned - easy.
  • M63 delicate haze shows some unevenness.
  • M101 haze fills the eyepiece with some dark areas near the core.
  • M106 shows a way out appendage like it is being torn.
  • M97 the Owl has eyes tonight! with the help of a LPR filter. Nearby M108 is on the threshold of my vision but there in the same field.
  • M81-2 are easy. M81 shows hints of its arms and I am seeing a bar?
  • Globbies M13, M3, M53, M92, fall captured to RED's mirror net. M3 shows a distinct topaz shine, with 53 giving me a spooky kinda view. I'm enjoying 13's wild star arms and 92's dense star jam.
  • M65-66 are easy but NGC 3628 is hiding!
  • On to Coma where Melotte 111 and Alpha, Beta, Gamma Com on the threshold of my vision. But it is enough for the hunt!
  • M64's black eye is seen with a adverted stare.
  • NGC 4565 is a ghost - tap the tube there it is, then gone!
  • NGC4889 the brightest of the Coma far flung cluster can just be seen! Not bad!
  • On to Corvus and to face my neighbors lighting head on: NGC 4361 Ghost of Jupiter is seen with the help of the LPR.
  • NGC's 4038-27 are dots of light but seen.
  • M104 is a specter in this sky glow viewing site. Its dark lane is still easily seen and its core is a bold pin point - very cool.
  • When it was all said and done 41 targets where acquired, 2 cups of tea downed, 1/3rd of a jar of almond butter consumed with remains on my mouth, gloves and telescope.
This observe wore me out. It is easy to observe when conditions are good, it is a test when they are not. Once I got past my attitude things started working right. I finished off the jar of almond butter on my couch composing a tactful note to my on and off neighbor to the south and dreamed of early morning Lunar vistas to see at dawn. I 'm glad I continued on.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The New Kid On The Block

Hi everyone my name is OJ. I was adopted yesterday into SUG's telescope troop and I was rescued from years of idleness in my case waiting for another chance to gather energy from above. Once SUG laid his eyes on me he flipped and quipped "oh my!" Well before I knew it I was in the back of his old car and off to my new digs. He says " outreach my fine old friend outreach it is for you" as he drives me home. I'm an old telescope for sure but I feel very young. SUGGY likes my optics, mount, and drives which are in perfect order. He was pleased with the quick look we had last night with a arctic like Sierra storm bearing down on us. I won't be out for use yet as my new caretaker has to purchase a power supply, dew shield, and 2 inch stuff for visual. All the pennies and dimes he was saving went for me at a my not to be resisted price.

I'm feeling really good right now as I'm all cleaned and set up. Finally out of the case and on my legs! But what is this black thingy SUG taped to my tube? SUG says " that it will help me point you to things faster, and easier". OK as long has I get to do my thing! I am liking this fancy eyepiece though. He then plugs me in and my mount is purring, my are optics cooling and I'm on top of the world! We viewed some of my favorites, M41-2, M36, 37, 38, M1, M46-7, M68, M35, Venus, Mercury, Saturn, double stars galore. Oh rupture & bliss to be used again - nothing like photons bouncing around my mirrors! No collimation needed and I'm in step with the sky like a fine Swiss watch ticking off the seconds, minutes and hours!

Here I am in my new garage - the other scopes of this platoon are rather quiet under their bags and wraps all shelved or upright against the wall. I can hear whispering from among them but no one answers my greeting. I got to meet Mrs.SUG. She's cute and she likes my color scheme and likes looking through SCT's like me. I hope she takes me out! Boy she's cute and smells pretty.
Can you guys tell me anything about my new owner? He certainly enjoys driving around the sky. I understand he is a colorful and different sort of person. And what about these not so friendly scopes whom I'm sharing space with......

4/5/10 Update: Clementine is Mr.Dr.Drive-by Astronomy's C-8 who is in a disparate situation and needs to be rescued from non usage! I received a cry for help from her earlier today. Can anyone help my new friend of like opticalness? There is nothing worst than sitting around collecting dust, rust, mildew, cobwebs, with my mount becoming a clothes hanger, my tube a large desktop paper weight and being condemned as a relic of the observational past. We must find a way to snatch this fine scope from more years of this abyss. I know what it is like.