Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tom's Big Chunky Astro Adventure

I met Tom several months back at the Marina during a Sun Earth Moon Saturday morning program. His interest level was keen and he was actively involved with all I was doing this day with a expressed interest in getting started in astronomy. I meet many folks who share a interest in getting started in astronomy but I tend to never hear from them again. Maybe they forget or get sidetracked (did they get overwhelmed by the SUG?) but this was not the case with Tom. Sure enough several weeks later my phone rings and its Tom asking about my whereabouts and program times along with questions concerning a certain pair of large binoculars he has acquired. Sure enough Tom meets me at my next outing and is totally into it and now has become a regular at my programs just soaking it all in. He also pulls out these beefy binoculars so lets get out the credit card and order a snazzy mount (that can also hold other small telescopes and one that the SUG can barrow from time to time) to get his hobby rolling.

Two weeks later in early July the mount arrives and so does Tom and in my backyard we are like 2 youngsters at play tearing open boxes and thinking about some fun binocular views. My mind is racing thinking about getting Tom trained on his new toy when oh no! Missing mounting post. Here's Tom holding some steroid binoculars with a stoutly built mount and we can not use either. Yes we where sad and heart broken. Tom would be leaving for several weeks the next day so no binocular fun for us till August.

Here we are now with the finished product. Our wait is over and Tom is digging on the Lunar views this evening. Nice gibbous moon details and comfortable viewing from almost any angle. But there is more. Yes this guy has gotten infected with the astro bug and of course I am going to egg it on whenever possible. Over the weeks Tom has kept his eye on my C8 OJ and has expressed a interest in having one. Sure enough I saw one for sale locally and Tom went out and bought it while I was at home still thinking about it and wondering when I could break free to check it out for him!

How can you go wrong with one of these? Yes it is old but in nice condition. Built like Fort Knox, light weight, easy to set up with good optics. So in between binocular views we start to tinker with this black beauty and it will only require minor repair to the altitude adjuster, finder bracket and a fresh mirror alignment. The drives hum along nicely and it is tracking like a champ. Tom already had a power supply and inverter - cool. I quickly make out a minor shopping list to get this scope ready for some fun beginner astronomy and outreach. Yes outreach ! Tom not only has acquired the astronomy infection but also the outreach passion. He has experienced first hand the joy in sharing the universe with others. No Tom is not a seasoned observer and has much to learn but he wants to give out of what he knows now and share what he has acquired. This so cool to watch and be part of this process so expect to see another scope and outreach guy in the pics on this blog. Tom is in no hurry to learn everything or master the sky but I expect his patient and quiet demeanor to be a great assist to a whole other segment of people that the SUG bowls over with his energy, excitement, and observing challenges! Not everyone needs a SUG but some will need a Tom with his binoculars and black C8 to lead them on a simple heavenly viewing quest.

Welcome aboard Tom!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Marta's Moon

"Why do you do this?" is a question I am frequently asked. My answer is generally that I love astronomy and I am a people person. These two things energize my life and why not do both at the same time! Astronomy has opened new and wonderful experiences in my life, brought comfort, satisfaction, a knowledge and understanding of nature. Why not share these things. Someone once said "share out of what you possess not what you do not". Midlife has away of bringing reality to one so I quit trying to be what I was not and be what I am. Part of my adult growth has been connecting with the truth of who I am and living my life out of this without a second thought. My outreach is a reflection of what I am and what is important to me. Which brings us to this encounter on Monday evening which may explain my passion with all of this astronomy outreach activity.

I had a crowd of 15 or so surrounding my outreach post anticipating a view of a early evening Luna. The air was buzzing with conversation as folks researched the moon posters on my table with questions and comments already filling the gathering like a important press conference. And there in the midst of this small crowd was Marta waiting patiently for the astro guy to get his scope prepared for the evening activity. What stood out about her was the mile wide smile on her face and with a quiet voice asking with a childlike quality " Oh I want to see the moon!" If only more adults could be kids once in a while! Sometimes folks will approach my gig with a great deal of seriousness and some are disappointed that I am not doing something serious like research, or photography - no this is fun astronomy here people! Astronomy to capture your imagination, wonder and bring the kid out in you!

What was really funny about all this was Marta's demeanor seemed to infect the rest of the crowd! Walls were coming down and folks started to loosen up!

Marta approached the scope with a reverence like she knew something special was about to occur. Yes she was transported to a world only dreamed about or seen on the television set or in a book. As she looked I encouraged her to "Take your time and ignore the line in back of you this is your time and your moon to explore " and soon I heard "This is so beautiful so wonderful " " I can not believe I am seeing this " " The mountain tops look like they are covered in silver!" More she viewed the bigger the smile and " This is so wonderful I feel like I'm there!" As she stepped away a tear rolled down her cheek and than another and another as she was obviously moved by the whole experience. She then went straight to the back of the line to await another opportunity! The folks waiting behind her watched all this unfold and soon the whole line was buzzing with anticipation with the next 30 minutes being filled with laughter and excited folks at the scope.

What will happen when she sees Saturn?

Monday, August 16, 2010

International Observe The Moon Night

September 18th millions? world wide will be exposed to the wonders of our nearest neighbor in space. I plan on being a part of it. Sometimes I think it is always Observe the Moon Night! But I am glad that this effort was organized and with it another opportunity to do some fun community service.

And this will be my view of the moon on this date by the time my home world spins around enough for me to see her! I can hear my visitors questions and wows already! I will more than likely do a 2 scope setup with one being a nice wide field low power view and another for those who will take up on the SUG Lunar Challenge! I will be encouraging folks to navigate this orb and get to know her treats for the eye!

August 1st Quarter Luna and Friends

It is that time once again to invade the sidewalks of Reno/Sparks and share the night sky with the general populace. Our weather has been cooler than normal though still warm - this Sunday we had a quickie T-storm move through and dropped our temps a good 10 degrees and I felt this was a good time for me to kickoff my late summer/fall programs. I am really glad I got out this evening as the storm really cleaned the air out ( well not entirely more on this later) and folks were coming out of the woodwork to enjoy the evening Marina Park walkways. No rush this time to get out the door as I had my old SUV all packed and ready to go and C8 was tuned up and its power pack loaded with juice for a long session out. And this turned out to be a fun filled 5 hour session out! They just kept coming and coming and..........

Paul was my first visitor and he fell prey to the moon's 1st quarter delights. With a little help he was kicking around the moon dust seeing sights never seen before. His only comment was " I'm speechless " as one should be after a viewing like this!

Patricia ran into the Sidewalk Guy 1 year ago this same weekend and had her fill of Jupiter and Luna. Now a year later she is back with her son Quinton who just returned from his military service in the middle east! What a pleasure to meet this awesome young man who is excelling in his role as a field medic, leading and training others as they seek to aid their comrades in arms and local populace. These two enjoyed views of our moon, and double stars.

Just when you think it is time to pack it in 3 cars pull up and out pops out this horde and they must be satisfied with views and banter! Oh what fun we had sharing views of double stars, a dusty moon and a discussion about stellar evolution! At this time by chance a dust storm of our own decided to blow into our meadow with a vengeance! But these guys where not detracted from their quest to view and learn. One of the ladies asked " gee I wish I could see Jupiter " and just then I said "well there it is my friend" as I pointed to its appearance in the eastern sky! Talk about timing - your wish is my command ! Jupiter was now in fair position for viewing and they were treated to a nice sight of banding and moons. They left with loads of freebies which I am sure will be devoured over the next few days.

Not done yet. Darleen stopped by with Ted to see what this was all about and soon she was smitten with the astro bug which first invaded her life with a nice view of Jupiter and its four moons of Galilean distinction. Not to be over shadowed by it's bigger brother Uranus begged for a showing and Darleen had the first views of this Solar System outpost this season! She was taken in by this turquoise blue sphere which "looked like a gem stone!" Ted is enrolled at our local university and is taking a astronomy class - he said he "liked this better than his class and this was a bunch of fun !" No math required here.

It is now midnight and I got pack up but wait here comes some more folks down the sidewalk heading my way and.........

Monday, August 9, 2010

August Outreach Start Up

I am looking forward to hitting the sidewalks again within the next couple of weeks. Our summer continues cooler than normal so for the most part our skies have offered good/fair viewing conditions. I am anticipating some fun outreaches this late summer and fall with Jupiter in our evening skies. There will be Jupiter Observation Challenges and dancing moons to explore! Who will push their imagination and risk take at the telescope?

Uranus will be getting a significant viewing time this late summer and fall season also. With it being nearby Jove in our line of sight along the ecliptic this is a perfect time to show off this mispronounced and misunderstood Ice Giant Planet. Oh the wonders of it's tilted over spin axis and Shakespearean named moons. This world has always captured my imagination and I will be doing my best to make sure my visitors get the same level of fascination! Oh yes you will be infected!

I can not wait for the show to begin!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kickoff August Observe

Well we made it through another July and as expected our hot temps has kept any personal sky foraging and outreach to a minimum. But we seem to be in a earlier than normal cooling trend - still warm but our evenings are cooling down fast with very pleasant temps. In fact last evenings double star hunt required a jacket at 10:30 p.m . So much fun to be out and about the sky with CR150 splitting stellar combos, drinking green tea, and listening to the various insects and toads stake their personal territory in my back yard. Sierra August/September skies are greatly anticipated by me each year and are some of the most memorable and special times for me under the stellar canopy. My neighbor Edi stopped by to chat and view and is looking forward to a dark sky night out with his one year old 10" dob. I would like to pick up my outreach again in mid August but I am not to sure if this will happen as some stuff is in flux right now and of course temps could go up and range fires smoke us all out!

But this night was a nice foretaste of things to come - pretty sky, people to chat with, and a chance to recharge the photon bucket!