Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Evening Front Lawn Street Astro

It is that time again for kiddies and parents to be out and about knocking on doors and seeking out treats. Well the Sidewalk Universe Guy has some sweets of the astronomical type to hand out and a few tricks too. With Jupiter anchoring the southeastern sky along with a transit of it's volcanic moon Io during prime time tricks or treats this has the makings of a fine outing catching folks off guard with a space science education opportunity.

I was handing out 3D cards and Solar Pizzas and to those who show a real interest DVD's will end up in their sacks.

Here's C8 ready to go all shaded by my small Oak tree from the onslaught of the Victorian style street lamp. I am glad it still has some leaves to help eclipse this lamp which laminates my south front yard corner. I thought about asking my across the way neighbor Edi about using his front lawn for this outing but I did not want to subject him to the potential crowd control & media blitz problems that the SUG generates........haha!

Last year I got some really interesting responses ranging from "this is really neat" to what the F!!!!!!!!!?????. What will it be this year?

Judy had a wonderful time with Jupiter. She was out with her daughter and grand kids. Judy patiently waited her turn as she was back at the end of a 15 costumed kiddee line with the look of anticipation on her face. One young teenager in this line took up on the Sidewalk Universe Guy's Jupiter Challenge and with this Judy had already decided to take on this crucible when her turn arrived. Well by the time this first time observer made it to the scope she was ready to go and one by one the selected Jupiter features fell before her gaze. Io's 3D effect against Jupiter's cloud tops left her spellbound! Picking out Ganymede, the polar hoods, and Jupiter's not so round shape was easy for this interested visitor. She received her DVD excitedly and with gratitude. When she was done off she went telling other packs of people to stop by and see the Sidewalk Guy nestled behind his tree and shrubs showing a eyeball treat to one and all. I had 40+ this evening out and met several that had expressed a interest in getting started in astronomy.

Tom's Telescope Collection Grows

Tom is infected with the astro bug. His progress has been sure and steady only held up by weather, and the availability of the SUG. The Sidewalk Guy has not been available as of late but some time was carved out the past Saturday afternoon to help Tom do some simple maintenance on his new (used) telescope collection. Tom is building his hobby smart finding good used scopes which will provide years of enjoyment to himself and others.

Here is Tom with his latest purchase a nice Orion Deep Space Explorer 10" Dob. This is a oldie but in fine shape. Look at that giant 9x60 finder and custom skull & crossbones wood box that doubles as a scope cradle when in your car going to the dark sky sight or SUG outreach event! This scope is patterned after the Coulter line of Dobs with a Sonotube OTA and vented particle board mirror cell. Funky & fun! But it is a bit more refined. I will have a post on Coulter's soon. We did some cleaning on the floor boards and bearings and the movement is nice and smooth. Next up will be a mirror cleaning when Tom is done doing his homework on this. No SUG does not do all the work as Tom must know how to care for this telescope. We will also be cleaning out the old grease from the focuser unit. Today we mounted his Rigel Quick Finder and did a mirror lineament with everything moving easily into place and terrestrial targets snapping into crisp focus . This scope came with a nice 1.25" color filter set and 35mm eyepiece.

We also spent sometime working on his C8. Rigel Quick Finder mounted and sighted in, right angle finder fixed, mounted and sighted in, equatorial wedge adjusted, and the light shield custom fitted. I would say this scope is ready to go!

Tom has plenty of scope here and is ready to explore the sky from is backyard and share it with others on the sidewalks.

This novice Minnesotan observer also has his own unique set of camo covers for his scopes. These clash perfectly with just about everything including Tom's Viking's colors. Like a Minnesota duck hunter in a duck blind these scopes will be seeking celestial critters that fly by over head. He may live out west here but he's all Minnesota at heart!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Undercover Astronomer Scoping Out New Locations

Last week I had some free time I thought it would be a good to investigate by stealth some new settings for my outreach efforts. I really like my Marina outpost but for sometime I have been wanting to move my program around. The Sparks Marina Park is right on the a joining mall and future casino complex called "Legends". The mall itself is a outlet style and is only a few short minutes drive from my home. It is nicely done with fountains, fireplaces, gardens, bronze statues, and sculptures depicting the history and nature of the Silver State. I am not a mall person but I do like it here and there is lots of traffic on the weekends! I surveyed the sky here the other night and was surprised as to what I could see. Here are some pics of the mall and I found some good set up areas where the "Big Four" meet.

  • Traffic flow - gotta have people to inspire!
  • Visibility - they gotta see you out there!
  • Access - gotta be able to get in and out with your stuff so they can pass by and see you!
  • Sky To See - the first three mean nothing if there are obstructions to viewing the sky! No not prime observing real estate but you have to be able to show them something or your gonna look silly to most folks. Well you will look silly to some by just being there!

Here's the main court yard with its cozy surroundings. It will be easy to do Lunar and Solar programs from here! People traffic moves in from all directions. Believe it or not the sky at night is not washed out badly for the mall lighting is shielded! There are lots of places for folks to sit and mingle here and it is nice in the winter months with the gas fires going.

Stairway to second level eateries with a awesome sky exposure reaching from the North to the N.W with only the South blocked out. There is a elevator so I could move my stuff to the platform easily. I am imagining my little station up here showing off the sky and bantering away with my visitors! Here is the N.W view from the second floor patio over looking the Marina Park. Programs of all sorts could be done here including brighter deep sky objects. I am jazzed about the potential of this place for outreach from various spots within the complex. I am feeling very inspired about doing 2-3 programs a month out here.

I hope the mall management is open to the Sidewalk Universe Guy!

Several days later and I meet with the mall management with my presentation in hand. The response kind of threw me for a bit with the short of it is that they do not want their visitors distracted from shopping. I have entered a different universe here. I totally understand that this place is open for the purpose of making money but.....I am speechless to say the least and a bit embarrassed and I leave feeling really stupid. I have read stories of other astro groups doing programs at malls without any trouble and what is up with this? I do not know how to reply to this statement. There must be a place for the SUG to go but where?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mid Week Jupiter Not So Bash Street Astro

Well here it is a Saturday afternoon in Sierra foothills with a very socked in sky and a double moon transit of Jupiter about to begin in a few hours. No way this guy is gonna see it tonight with unyielding clouds in all directions. Drive By chimed in earlier and was bragging about his wonderful N.Y. skies for this event! I did or at least attempted a outreach on this past Wednesday evening.

A awesome sunset with clouds moving out started things out nicely........

Resource table and scope set to go and...........

Well no one showed up! Seriously 4 visitors this night to enjoy Jupiter and waxing gibbous moon views. This was by far my slowest and least satisfying outreach. One of my visitors did do a detailed view with Luna treasures spurring him forward but did not want his pic taken. To bad as he would have made the headlines on this blog for the quality observe he made that even impressed his lady friend. Well maybe that is all that mattered! And she was impressed with her guy's observing prowess and his car wasn't to bad either...........

OK what is a SUG to do?

Why not enjoy the time out by the lakeside and take in fun lunar views like this one. This was the same view I had on this evening of this crater/transition crater complex on the moon's western edge. Oh sure I missed my people (A LOT) and I was a lonely telescope guy but the moon made up for some it with shows like this.

I think I am ready to try a new location but where?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Midweek Street Astro

"When are you going to be out here again?" is something I tend to hear a lot. For it is a question that implies a good experience was had and curiosity stirred. I do not keep a regular schedule with my outreach due to weather, and the things of life. It is nice to know that folks are looking for me and enjoy their little forays into the cosmos and want to share this experience with other friends and family. I am glad to be a little part of their lives in such a positive way. I try to be out on Thursday, Friday, Sunday evenings (except with full moon) or will try to go out when things are just easily available and interesting to view like this Wednesday evening with our 6 day Luna and Jupiter seen right at dusk.

A day 6 moon is a wonder to behold but this crater duo of Aristoteles/Eudoxes was simply superb in its Lunar morning view with lighted rims, pitch black floors, and surrounding hilltops aglow with sunlight. Lunar eye candy!

Barb, Nigel, and Tammy shared in a wonderful observational experience this evening. Barb is one of my regulars who will always stop and inquire. Her interest grows and she does great P.R. for me encouraging others to stop and look. Tonight her pal Tammy was along the share in the experience. These two made detailed observations of Jupiter and Luna with patience excepting the SUG's challenge to go deeper. With encouragement and resources on hand even first timers can do detailed observes which only helps to foster more and more excitement. Needless to say this night of discovery was not to remain just here so on the phone is Tammy to Nigel who must partake of the show this evening and partake he did. With a rock and roll (he's part of a band) and science bent to life this gent just tears to shreds the SUG Jupiter Challenge. Lunar features where observed with ease and this fellow's zeal for the cosmos was ignited a bit. By the way Nigel has the coolest set of wheels! I had 41 visitors and was not able to leave till 11 p.m. Ok I stuck around by my own choice with lots of later evening viewers as I cannot say no as I'm packing up!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quickie Sunday Night Outreach

Weather cleared so I got out Sunday night for a fast couple of hours with Luna and Jupiter to show off to the public. My usual haunt was on the quiet side when I first arrived but people started to show up right after I had everything set up - imagine that!

Amanda with her daughters Kayla, Karla were some of the first to stop. Dad was busy securing dogs (large) while these ladies had some fun at the scope. 3day moon views with Crisium sunrise started the juices flowing and at last Jupiter was within grasp to marvel at. Cell phone calls going out to friends and family soon followed as Amanda & Kayla successfully conquered the SUG Jupiter Challenge - not hard at all with reasonable skies, well aligned scope, and the Sidewalk Guy nearby with atlas in hand to guide you on your way! What was really fun was watching and listening to the reactions of others waiting their turn as these two got down to some serious observing! 36 visitors this fine evening out.