Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring Freeze Saturn Street Astro 4/26

With a weather out of Sunday's Suburban Sky Explorer Meetup I was really wanting to get out and share some sky. Earlier in the day I had a fun morning Lunar viewing from the yard and was a bit primed to get out in the evening which looked very promising.

I got down to the park about 1 hour before Sunset and set up a "lite" table. Just the basics - binder, atlas, and planet scale model. The place was busy with power walkers, runners, families and I was ready for a busy evening sharing Saturn's planet swagger - this was to be my first Saturn viewing of the year.
This was also a opportunity to try out AT106. He was purchased mainly for Solar, Lunar, and Star Cluster viewing with the public. Both CR150 and C8 do a fabulous job on the planets but AT106 was already in the car so off he goes on this outing.

SOMEONE REMIND THE SIDEWALK GUY TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO OUR WEATHER FORECASTS PLEASE!!!!!! As soon as the Sun dropped over the western foothills our temps took a total nosedive and it was serious cold here - the place emptied out so fast. A breeze off the water was freezer cold and my hands stopped functioning in about a half hour. What's up with this! I was not prepared for this weather shift or the non functional appendages !

Needless to say with the wind our views went south and my line to see the show thinned out fast expect for Lindsey. She is a serious workout gal with a infectious smile and fast lap pace. As I was setting up she was limbering up and came over to inquire what was being shown this evening. Saturn has always captured her imagination and here is a chance to see it for herself. So after her laps ( I am not sure she even broke a sweat!) she was back just as the line dispersed ahead of her! This was really funny to see happen as others were being made into human popsicles and were fleeing this arctic blast she is ready to look all warmed from her sprint around the parks 2.5 mile circuit. Even with the somewhat shimmering view she was impressed seeing 3 moons, rings and even some banding across Saturn's blush face. As is normal ( I do expect this to happen from time to time!) on the cell phone she goes sharing her viewing experience with others waiting for her at a nearby eatery!

Can the Sidewalk Guy stay out longer? I want too but my frozen hands and feet say no. So
I give Lindsey a "SUG CHECK" to pass on to her friends for a warmer evening as Saturn will be gracing our spring skies over the next few months. Can I do the Zodiac and Opposition modeling, the Saturn/Earth Scale and viewing with her friends later? How long is a "SUG CHECK" good for?

These are important questions!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Full Moon Illusion Meetup 4/17/11

I was so looking forward to this Meetup event! The Full Moon Illusion is a fun topic and a really easy observation. When I have had the opportunity in the past to do this for the general public it got a good response and it should be even better for the Meetup Reno Suburban Sky Explorers!

These are my educational aids I use to help explain the Moon Illusion. The chart on the right shows us both of the Illusions - Luna large on the horizon and Luna small when over head but it is the same size moon all the time!

John and Michelle joined me for this outing. They are some of my more active participants with this Meetup Group and they enjoy all this Suburban Sky stuff. Here is John and I with our plastic viewing tubes waiting for Luna to show from behind the cloud cover. The idea here is to view the rising full moon with both your "naked" eye and through the tube - one is normal the other large! The tube dispels the illusion and your naked eye sees a large moon! Michelle in her world travels has seen both the large and the overhead mini moon illusions!

Here is the view through the tube! Puts things into perspective.

Unfortunately we were clouded out :(

How should we deal with our disappointment? In & Out Burger is calling! We can chow on some really good burgers and share in our mutual love of the universe. Even with our activity being clouded out we can still do this Suburban Astronomy thing via the internet with John's Droid phone and SUG's outreach binder and table atlas. It was really nice to hang with Michelle & John sharing astronomy web sites, personal stories and getting to know one another with astronomy being the catalyst. This is what Meetup groups are all about.

Here's the Sidewalk Guy with his double stack, animal style, extra vege's burger!

Here we are doing some internet astronomy. When we left this Reno spot we spied Luna peaking through the clouds - all 7 seconds of it! But what a surreal 7 seconds it was!

Thanks Michelle and John for sharing in a fun evening out!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Solar Saturday 4/16/11

This Saturday saw a shift in our weather with temps in the 70's with somewhat cloudy skies. But there is plenty of Sun to be seen with Sun Spot Groups 1190-93 really putting on a show. These are a joy to watch as they shape shift and wax and wane in intensity! I am totally enjoying using the solar wedge with it's tack sharp views and 2" format which affords everyone a easy viewing experience. I am glad that I purchased this device. Expensive yes but worth it and very safe indeed. In fact on this outing (darn missed the picture op!) one 90 year old lady had her first chance to view through a scope and "see those darn spots that keep interfering with her ham radio hobby!" She is still very angry with them but was spell bound by the view! I had her tell me what she was seeing - "detail upon detail, complex structures - Oh my! I never would have imagined!" A Sun, a scope, a wedge, and a Sidewalk Guy is all it takes to make this stuff happen!

Sisters day out at the park turned into a fun solar observe with proud mom enjoying her daughters inquisitive questions and super polite manners. These two made my outing with the younger making very detailed observations for a child her age! Katie the eldest is a Solar System enthusiast who loves the planets of which Mars captures her imagination the most.

This was not one of my more enthusiastic outings as far as general response from the public. Not sure what happened this day as there was a kids fair at the park (unexpected by me) and folks were just not that friendly or receptive. But John bought his interest and questions and we had a very nice 45 minutes together - he viewed (he was glued to the scope and had a great viewing time all to himself), asked great questions and SUG did his thing. Just as it should be! John really liked the solar wedge so I did a minor take apart and explained the workings to him. He was very impressed with the design and no wonder as he is very interested in design and engineering! 35 Lookers this day.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I am attempting to make up for lost time! With so many delays either weather or life oriented it is good to get out and have some astronomy fun with the public!

"Our Sun Day On Thursday" outreach was a hit with 45 + being exposed to new levels of Solar Radiation! Here's just a few of our partakers:

This group here rearranged their outing to spend extra time with the Sidewalk Universe Guy. This was their first exposure to any form of observational astronomy and they left with a new appreciation for our local Solar System. All the adults made quality observes picking out fine detail on the Solar disk!

Even pedal pushers in pink got into this Solar thing! Gotta luv that bike!

Leaving is such sweet sorrow especially when your having fun! But my family needs dinner and house work calls. Just as I was packing up Nala and nephew stop by and inquire; how can I say no such nice folks?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April Astro Happenings

After a long winter hibernation I was able to get some outreach accomplished both on the sidewalk and with the Meetup Reno Suburban Sky Explorers. The SSE'rs had 2 events so far this month and this past Sunday's event was really fun. We had a high flying day 6 moon in our afternoon crystal blue sky! I had 4 members make it out for Lunar sights, and fun food.

Chris and his trusty pad made friends with C8 and were making detailed observes together. This was Chris's second Lunar outing and he is really getting on the fast track with Luna!
This was Jodie's first lunar observe and she took advantage of all the telescope time she had! With just a little coaching she was off and surveying our moon. This Meetup adventure is very satisfying and its is starting to become what I envisioned it to be: a non serious place for folks to Meetup with the universe and have some fun!

Drive By joined us via Skype all the way from his backyard observatory in Buffalo N.Y! Fun to banter with him and he got to meet my newbie observers here in NV. Of course he had plenty of swagger to show off!

But the real reason Drive By joined us was to shake me down for the super secret formula for the SUG Observing Enhancing Cookies. Not only do these help you see more but are very healthy and taste great at the same time!

Local astro ducks Gertrude & Wycliffe dropped in for the moon along with the food handouts & SUG Spa Waters. They claim there is a duck on the moon!

I got some street astro in too! This Tuesday with its reasonable afternoon sky and free time for me allowed me to share Sol & Luna at Reno's Virginia Lake Park . This was a short 2.5 hour event but in that time 36 were treated to daytime astro. Chris and his dad loved this afternoon moon thing!

And Kristy is now a real Sun worshiper! One look is all it took!

Brandon had the first official sidewalk views through AT106. This scope is very quick and easy to setup and the wide views make observing easy for just about everyone both young and old alike. More on this scope later on.

That smile on his face says it all!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

BLOG Update - There Is Some Astronomy Happening Here

Mother nature is really playing havoc with the Sidewalk Guy's efforts here in Northern NV. Winter just will not leave us and events I have planned are canceled, postponed, or effected greatly. My Meetup group is showing great promise even though we have had weather outs over and over. Last Sunday we met and had a nice time but was hazed out very early! Today I had a joint Meetup & public outreach planned but again mother nature had another cold late winter like day. Oh well. You can read about the Meetup with this link:

But the Sidewalk Guy continues to get his arsenal full of fun outreach/educational aids and this one crossed my path from the nice folks at Ashland Astronomy Studio, and is available at

Here we have a simple easy to read and use map of our sky just great for all levels of star gazers and in my case just perfect for the general public and Meetup members who are looking to make sense of the sky above.

Everything is centered on the South (except of course the circumpolar sky) month by month so it is really easy to orient newbies to easy to find guide stars and dominate constellations! Also star names, celestial paths are easily seen. FUN!

Here is the legend. Again very easily to discern and use.

Asterisms included! I am in heaven as asterisms are a favorite of mine and a great tool to help folks memorize the sky! I like to have folks - especially kids make up their own.

Included are charts for both the Pleiades and the Hyades which test the eye sight of unsuspecting victims to Sidewalk Guy's charms! OK I will include bino views to these poor souls!

Next week I will get this fine poster laminated and out on the resource table. Now weather please cooperate!