Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunday Night Street Astro Fun

Things are shifting weather wise fast around here. Once we get into July our temps go high, thunderstorms build round the Sierra with general instability along with forest fire smoke rolling into our high desert meadow community. I usually write off July and late June for astronomy outreach except early morning personal observing with cool temps and clearer skies. I'm going to get in as many programs as I can before summer bears down.

Had a nice time this evening with about 56 visitors eager to look. This group was really serious about this ecliptic thing with Constellations, Venus, Regulus, Mars, Saturn, Spica, Antares and a waning gibbous Luna taking up the tail end. Following the road of the Sun, Moon, and planets what fun!

Jareta was the highlight of my evening. This youngster enjoys anything space related he nailed the Sidewalk Universe Guy's Saturn Challenge with ease and walked away with some astro stuff to learn from at home. Polite, inquiry centered, and a follower of instruction he will go far in life!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Solstice Street Astro With A Twist

Another Solstice come and gone. Seems like they are coming around faster all the time. Through my eastern facing bedroom window it is so much fun to see old Sol move from the SE to the NE and back again. From my western facing front porch to see the drama of the Sun's bye bye times shifting from the SW to the NW. How can we get the public informed and interested in this Sol movement? Most folks know the Solstice as the "longest day" but what does that mean? When really pressed (SUG is always gentle with his cross examination) most do not know what this is all about. One of my goals with all this is for the average person to begin to notice the changing position of the sunrise and sunset and the reason for it. Solar standstill time - gotta love it! Equinox - like it but Solstices rule! Hook them in with a telescope view and then educate them about this sublime bi-yearly event.

I received two generous donations last week for my program which allowed me to purchase this wonderful 38mm 2" eyepiece from University Optics - just perfect for the OJ the C8's f10 optics! This thing is like a porthole to the sky with plenty of eye relief so just about anyone can view through it with ease. I was weathered out over the weekend so I was anxious for some good weather to roll in and to put this eyepiece to work. With our busy Ecliptic and Waxing Moon I want to do some astronomy outreach in a bad way.

I barely get my outpost semi setup when Jared stopped by from zooming bike laps around the Marina and inquires as to what is going on. He is certainly not prepared for what is about to happen to him as he is reeled in to this outdoor astronomy classroom. Jared is a busy guy but somethings are meant to happen and this was his night to get a full dose of the Sidewalk Universe Guy's presentation of our local universe. He had the first look through OJ C8 on Luna with the new eyepiece. This one look started a 2+hour time for him under the sky learning the Solstice, Luna surface features, the Ecliptic, and nailing the Sug Saturn Challenge! He was actively engaged with all the modeling and presentations - a shift in his evening plans indeed!

Kyle and his generation 2 Archuleta's got a eyeful also. All eager to see and learn this family was a joy to spend time with. Kyle was digging on the views and the kids were so well behaved and patient as they waited for their turn to look - by this time I had a crowd closing in. Family bonding and astronomy at its finest!

My resource table is a disaster, presentations are quick, questions coming at me left and right, and my Solstice plans are on hold much like the Sun's movement - just go with it and have some fun! Over 60 where exposed this night to our sky with the Sidewalk Universe Guy packing up around 12 a.m!

What is the twist? It was one of fate. My best laid plans for Solstice demonstrations and modeling fell to the power of the telescope views and the contagious excitement of seeing distant worlds with a convenient crowed ecliptic. Hard for the everyday Solar movement to compete with Lunar terminator, Saturnine views and a growing line at the scope. But some did get the Solstice presentation and eyes where opened to this aspect of celestial mechanics.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

How Could I Forget to Post This Sunday Evening Street Astro

Sunday was a fabulous day here with spring like temps, brilliant snow capped mountains and good sky. After being lazy all day I was ready to go out and met some folks and share some universe stuff. I decided to bring the Orion 8" out as the dust was building up on it in the garage. In years past this scope has had a lot of street astro lookers, scouts, neighbors view through it. A half hour of cleaning and tuning it was ready to go wearing C8 's light shroud as a crown.

It was a pretty evening with a magnificent sunset and 18 hour Cheshire Cat Moon grinning at us in the west. Saturn put on a show and the lines where building faster than expected. These folks in the pic where at the tail end of that line. But they heard every presentation, saw every modeling and when they hit the scope they were ready to look and do some astronomy. What a pleasure to work with this group as we covered a lot of sky for them! Each of them nailed the SUG Saturn Challenge pushing their novice viewing skills. After the ecliptic objects du jour on to double stars and some globular clusters too!

Waiting at the end of the line has its advantages!

3 Evening Street Astronomy Blitz Part 1

Last night I kicked off another astro foray on the walkways of the Sparks Marina Park along with my new outreach pal OJ the C8 SCT all outfitted and ready to go. With the ecliptic offering so much in the way of eye candy along with super weather (save for the setting sun windy time) surely OJ and I would be busy tonight and we were! Over 60 stopped by to look & learn and many took up on the Sidewalk Guy's Saturn Observational Challenge which is:

  • Low power view of Saturn; how many moons can you spot?
  • Medium power view; you see Saturn's oblate shape?
  • Higher power view/orange filter; can you spy Saturn's mascara ring shadow, atmospheric banding, polar hood?
  • How long will you stick around to listen to SUG's banter?
Besides all this there is the Moon to show off, and the Ecliptic Sky to point out!

These guys were astro geeks deluxe throughout the evening getting totally hooked on this space stuff. And they came back with more of their gang to reel them in too! They may be joining me on Thursday evening for a detailed Lunar observe and more "phasing out"!

Rosa and her trio of surprised walkers made very detailed observations of Luna and Saturn with a little coaching. All of them have never looked through a scope before and where glued along with miles of smiles beaming from their faces and rapid text messaging going on to family and friends to join in the proceedings.
David is a budding amateur photographer who enjoys photographing the night sky in panoramic and scenic shots - earth sky stuff. What he had to show me on his 3G phone was impressive and needless to say this telescope on the walkway thing captured his attention fast! Luna, Saturn views led to a discussion about Venus and it's unique characteristics along with a understanding of the ecliptic.

This was a fun night!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Edi's Galaxy Quest

Well the time arrived for Edi my novice astro geek neighbor to have his hand at hunting down the faint fuzzies. He has been on the SUG Astro Training Program the last year and is growing rapidly in his skill and tonight it is galaxies. Though not ready to shoot the Virgo Cluster he is ready to bag & tag the brighter Messiers and then move on to the Caldwells.

He did great this night with his mentor challenging his navigation skills and he used all of his tools - DeepMap 600, Telrad Charts, and starwheel. With the good seeing, 10" f/5 optics, and 2" eyepieces he was seeing them with ease! What more can the SUG teach this guy? SUG showed off some quickie Caldwell gems to keep my charge motivated and not to cocky.

Here are some pics from our high desert location. Yes the trash cans are part of the landscape!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Double/Double Duty Time For CR150/UA

The day broke clear and cool with a just past 3rd quarter Luna sitting pretty in my skies along with sunspot group 1076 making freckles on the Sun. Sounds like a Saturday morning Sol & Luna Street Astro is in order. So I hurriedly load up my tools of the trade and out we go and the park is busy! I start to set up my outpost and folks are stopping by! Art in the pic was one of the first to come by and was instantly taken in. He received the full brunt of a SUG modeling demo "Why & When We See The Moon" which explains the Lunar Phase Cycle and why we see the moon at various times throughout the days of the month. Just what is with this daytime morning moon anyway? Well Art got a serious Lunar education and left only to come back later with friends in tow for the same hands on education. As the Sun rose in my skies CR150/UA was back and forth from Luna to Sol with my visitors being treated to fun views of both. The Sunspot group 1076 through "small" was putting out the faculae show which was easy for most of my peps to see along with Solar Granulation. I was out for just under 3 hours with over 40 exposed to some daytime astronomy.

I was fairly tired when I arrived home and thought I was done for the day. After lunch I helped my neighbor Edi with some yard work (trench digging) and some house cleaning. I was tired and loading up on pasta salad for dinner did not help. But the skies were calling, not clear clear but good considering the strange weather patterns we have been having so CR150/UA is out of the car and on the patio! Excitement is building : Double Stars, Saturn, Waning Luna, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and a morning comet await my gaze! And I'm not tired anymore. (OK a iced black tea did help with some of this!) Oh yes the SUG is in observational mode and doubles are falling right and left down to about 4". Patience is required with the unstable air but even my neighbor Edi (who needed a double star fix) was seeing some of these "stellar huggers" with his weaker vision. I helped Edi get re-acquainted with the sky with a Constellation/Messier Tour and he is ready to begin observing again! About 3 a.m the lenticular clouds floated in killing any chance for comet hunting and quality Lunar & Planet views. I could hear my pillow calling so off I go. As I land in my sleeping place I remember that CR150/UA is not at all snug as he is uncovered and exposed to the chill and this can not be so I stumble down the stairs to cover my acromatic telescope with his grey knit blanket to let him dream of other full astronomy days.