Sunday, November 21, 2010

Frost Full Moon Dreaming

This Sunday brings us to another full moon which is called the "Frost Moon". Very timely as my locale has been getting pelted with a bit of pre-winter white stuff and cold windy days and nights! Not sure if the now somewhat sunny skies will hold out to catch this full moon rising later today over my eastern foothills.

If not I will spend another Sunday afternoon & evening dreaming. I am really anticipating doing full moon programs showing simple low power filtered views like this!

No outreach tonight as the winds and cold are sure to keep folks huddled at home (along with me fighting a cold) but it is fun to anticipate the months ahead.

But as I pondered the full moon outreaches Earth Shine came to mind especially when seen with a waxing crescent in the western sky! Using the same low power view point this can really be enjoyed in the early evening sky and even when Luna is waning in our eastern morning skies sharing lighting duties with Sol.

Yes lots of easy and fun opportunities to share our local cosmos with others!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Solar Greetings & Wishes

Hey Jim thanks for the neat e-card featuring our erupting Sun!

He wrote : " Wish you were here!" "Or at least looking here in this part of the spectrum!"

I could not agree more though I would prefer the latter point of view!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Luna Jupiter Conjunction & A Two Inch Universe

Nice weather has arrived with great temps and a sky to behold. This Monday evening promises a nice show with Moon and Jupiter line dancing in our skies at a very convenient early evening time slot. This pairing also provides a very easy reference point for me to use in conjunction (ha ha) with the "The Two Inch Universe" activity, and my new Lunar poster! Yippee! Yes the Sidewalk Guy is very easily entertained.
Here is my set up for the evening. I changed my locale at the Marina to this spot that I have used before with morning waning moon/solar observes. But this evening the close by lighting will aid me in my presentation of this fun interactive/hands on activity. This whole activity can be done in about 10 minutes but will go longer for questions will arise!

Remember part of the deal here is that if you are to look you must also be willing to learn. Oh yes the views tonight with our clear skies is nothing short of breathtaking with CR150 doing the optical duties for this outing showing off a just 10 day Luna features (close up & personal) and a fun Jupiter moon disappearance act which a group of eight got to see! But just let me weave (as the SUG is known to do) the "Two Inch Universe" activity in to your sphere (personal bubble) without you knowing it is coming and engage your imagination and interview your understanding of how you see the universe. Scale activities really challenge the brain and bring out the curiosity in most folks.

Noreen met the Sidewalk Universe Guy 3 months back and has been looking for him since. In this time she has been telling Ron all about her cosmic experience seeing Jupiter, surveying the Lunar surface, and listening to SUG's excited banter over the sky show that evening. She really got a lot out of her prior visit! Tonight out for a few laps around the park energized with fresh StarBuck's Earle Grey Tea (did that smell good!) she and Ron stumble upon the SUG just in time to enjoy his new activity and views of celestial objects to inspire. Yes Ron the SUG is for real and now you too are ensnared in his web of astro fun. Being a good trooper he assisted Noreen with the activity of the evening being amazed how we can scale the universe local; Sun Earth Moon and Solar System, and distant; Milky Way & other Galaxies all right here on this park patio!

Though my numbers were lite, 23 total I enjoyed this outing giving me a chance to practice with the Two Inch Universe and to experiment with ways of introducing it. What I am finding is that I must place it in their hands right at the start - "Here look at this!" without introduction or invitation. There is a built in reluctance with many folks as this science learning is challenging and we for the most part do not want to be challenged. But once engaged with SUG's friendly demeanor and "Hey this fun" attitude most were ready to run with the full extent of this activity. Besides the views where worth the price of admission!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Quickie SEMASWO Outreach

Hey we have a clearing!!!!! If only for a few hours this past Friday afternoon but it is perfect for timing for a SEMASWO. So much fun to have folks come by and inquire as to we can observe this afternoon. I tell them that "there are 3 astronomical objects to enjoy right now and easy to see !" Of course this starts the questions which I carefully place back to them and challenge them to make the observation and guess for themselves! Most folks will not notice this 6 day Luna and do not associate the Sun lighting day or the Earth under their feet as objects of daytime observation and contemplation. I also hear "is there special event is happening today?" My response which is well programed is that "there is always something special happening , we just have to educate ourselves to see them!"

With the arrival last week of a new NSN toolkit with it's awesome Earth/Moon graphic plastic roll up poster and a brief window to the sky out I zoom with my gear intending to do one of my Sun Earth Moon Afternoon Sunshine Walkers Outreaches (SEMASWO) with all the important celestial objects in their proper positions!

Folks were out in abundance enjoying the afternoon and as I started to unload and set up people started to drop by and inquire. Armed with the new mega moon poster I had folks make naked eye observations identifying features not noticed by them before. These large format posters attract a bunch of attention when displayed! Out came the solar viewers to see Sol's face and of course we must model this Sun Earth Moon system while still setting up! Feast or famine so just run with it even though I like being prepared with everything all set up and ready to go.

These guys here made my afternoon. High school fellows out of school early enjoying the afternoon would normally not have much time for science stuff but these guys enjoyed the SUG's astro presentation and natures happenings that they came back twice over as the moon brightened with the lowering Sun giving us a road to follow to Jupiter's brightening pin point in the twilight sky. Impressed with Jupiters moon gaggle lined up on one side, and the banding of it's high speed atmosphere these fellows got a lot out of their visit.

Setting Sun winds cooled things down really quick and it was getting hard to keep my resource table from blowing away so I had to call it a afternoon - but not before one personal observation. Jupiter's South Temperate Belt is starting to reappear so why not try for it as I'm packing up. So let's adjust the polarizing filter a bit and wait for a window of still air to arrive.

Well sure enough there it is as marked by a slight darkening in the region where it is suppose to be! No not the dark belt we are familiar with more like Jupiter wearing nylons! I did not see the new white oval till later on at home with a brief window of nice viewing. Oh how I wanted to share these observations with others but that time will come I am sure!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rainy Sunday Afternoon Street Astro

Nice to hear that my comrades under the sky are having good weather to enjoy and share the universe with. My fall weather continues to be surprisingly astronomy poor but for our region the moisture and clouds are welcome for other things to other folks. I guess I can't hog the climate here all the time. This Sunday afternoon is rainy and windy with snow piling up in the higher elevations. What to do? How about spending sometime planning outreach activities with the new goodies just arrived from my sponsor NASA Night Sky Network/ Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

I am really grateful to be a part of this with all the various resources at my disposal which make sharing the universe easy and fun. Because of the nature of my outreach (street astronomy) I can not use all of what is in each outreach toolkit but each kit has things that I can incorporate right away. But I am looking and thinking about ways to present more of the materials all the time - more on this later. I want the views through the scope to create an air of curiosity for folks to want to learn more. I want the activities to promote a excitement about looking through the scope too. I certainly do not expect each and every visitor to stay "long" (more than just a look) but I have been able to engage folks in such a way were they stay longer than they expect too!

I am really excited about this activity called "The Incredible TWO-INCH UNIVERSE". Here the entire universe is brought down to a simple mind manageable scales. Imagine holding the Sun, Earth & Moon, along with our Solar System in your hand. How about a whole Milky Way galaxy and Andromeda galaxy spaced about a arms distance apart? Or the Hubble Ultra Deep Field 4 miles away which is depicted on the back of the Cosmic Microwave Background pic. Fun stuff here!!!!!!!!
One of the neat things with this activity is that my more studious visitors will be able to take this with home with them to share with others!

Look at what we got here - the new NSN Space Rocks Toolkit and this is gonna be fun. As I mentioned earlier these kits from the network are loaded with creative presentations and activities that astronomy clubs can use in a variety of settings. Several things will be incorporated soon like the Earth/Moon poster comparative. The moon is seen on the lower right and the Earth poster will be (as standard with the NSN posters) a weather proof plastic roll up 1 meter in size! I should have this by next week. Along with this a nifty Solar System Card Sorting Activity seen in the upper right side which folks can do while waiting to look or as part of a presentation. How much fun is this?

But wait there's more!!!!!! Included in the kit is this hands on "Meteorite or MeteorWrong" activity with a flip book to guide! My visitors can now compare earthy stuff to the real stuff that has fallen from the sky above! For the activities to be effective they need to be guided by a knowledgeable other so............

What is as Sidewalk Guy to do? I can juggle a lot on my outings doing presentations, viewings with challenges, and modeling. But if I am going to move to the next level (which is incorporating more of the NSN activities) I will need some help. I want to have a completely separate activity table manned by a capable individual - me or another. I want a lap top or note pad out there with power points to enhance the experience. Is there a person is out there that has passion to reach folks on a personal level, not just share info but make the universe understandable & personal. One who can be patient as folks look through a scope and work through their misconceptions/misunderstandings about the cosmos. One who can handle SUG's high energy output, constant eating of snacks, and endless banter and desire to push the boundaries of street astronomy!


Friday, November 5, 2010

HEOC Request

I have been flooded with requests for a long over due Healthy Eating and Observing Club post. With my skies cloudy the Sidewalk Guy is photon and outreach deprived along with a case of aperture fever. Yes this dreaded illness has struck with a vengeance since East Central Minnesota Astronomy Club Jim found gold (speculum more like it) on Astromart and purchased the Leviathan (along with other assorted optical aids) and is sitting under Mag 6 skies enjoying food stuffs and a telescope of a Irish origin.

I am not feeling "healthy" today! No rather I want my taste buds to enjoy some down home cooking and lots of it. Remember friends that the HEOC emphasis is on healthy; either in quality and quantity. Drive By Astronomy my Hamburg NY affiliate stresses the quantity aspect with his pizza and pasta powered astro sessions teamed up with TelVue 101 or the BAA 20" Dob. Lots of photons both color corrected and copious along Italian food(or anything ethnic) piled up on his plate.

So today it is this wonder to behold, and enjoy - the chicken fried steak! This meal has been on my mind now for days and I want one really bad with all its crunchy, savory down home goodness smothered with gravy with fresh ground black pepper on top. Served with blacked eyed peas, mashed spuds, and a couple of fresh biscuits and butter I would be ready for a observation session with this being served up by the chained lady Andromeda ...........

NGC 891 is a ghost like edge on view galaxy that is a fall favorite for me. With it's needlework dark lane and galactic bulge set against the starry background this specter always fills my photon bucket. One night several years back I had the opportunity to enjoy this gem using my 12.5 Dob and a image enhancing eyepiece - kind of a night vision barlow. Well the view was nothing sort of awesome and reviled the view through a 16"-18" scope.

Like the chicken fried steak the experience was filling, and tasty and left me wanting more.

More aperture and another chicken fried steak with the trimmings please!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

U(you) R(are)K(killing)M(me) Astro Report

Ti's that time of year to enjoy the treasures of the fall sky and this one is at the top of the list; Messier 15 (NGC7078) in the upside down flying horse of Pegasus. It is 33,600 lys distant with a light output of 360,000 Suns! With its dense central region and well aged looks this is a throw back in galactic history & stellar evolution.

And of course today my buddy Jim in Minnesota has to fill me me in on his excellent observe time last evening armed with Earl Grey Tea and scone. Not just any Earl Grey Tea but tea that has been brewed to perfection in the traditional British way. How does he like his? With milk or creme? Sugar or honey? Straight up maybe? I know how he likes his skies; clear and steady with as little moisture has possible.

Of course no observe time is complete without something to munch so why not some fresh scone from the wife's kitchen. These are the stuff of culinary legend and Jim will tell you all about them himself I am sure.

What is really KMT (killing me today) is his report to me via email: "Well, tonight is very mild but with a steady light breeze. My skies from the apron outside my garage are magnitude 6 and I just came in to thaw out and brag that I just saw M15 with the naked-eye... "

OK Jim. Little does my Mn stationed friend know that for weeks we have had haze without a let up. Yes and here he is in his country outpost looking up and bagging faint MefuzzierS with the naked eye drinking tea perfection with scone crumbs hitting the drive way. Mag 6 skies I can only imagine.........the tea and scone supreme will have to be imagined as well.

Tell me my brother under the skies did you also spy Pease 1 the planetary nebula associated with this cluster as seen in the picture? No silly not with your scope ( oh which one?) but with your eye? If you did I am ready to bag this hobby and move on to model trains!

URKM Jim!!!!!!:)

Monday, November 1, 2010

AstroMart Purchase

Tis the time of year to purchase a scope - a used scope that is! My recently reacquainted astro buddy Jim has always had a knack for finding good buys on this popular amateur astronomer website. Much of what he owns is found here including this baby:

Yes when aperture fever hits it is hard to quell so Jim gives in and is now the proud owner of "The Leviathan of Mora MN" - all 70" and several tons of metal mirror are his! He has plenty of room on his country estate for this jumbo scope. Only he will need to employ his wife and daughters to help him maneuver the thing with the heavy chain and lever mounting.

To quote Jim: " This will be a wonderful family experience and bonding time under the skies for us. I could not pass this up!"

Enough said!