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Young Viewers with Eyepiece Difficulties

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#26 johnnyha


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Posted 02 March 2013 - 01:48 AM

I always find it helps with all ages in fact, when someone new is coming to the eyepiece, to wait a bit and then simply ask, "So what do you see?". This usually works quite well and gets the person at the eyepiece concentrating and explaining what they actually see. The next in line is usually going to try to see and describe even more!

#27 JMW



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Posted 02 March 2013 - 01:44 PM

Johnny, I like your approach with your question. I will have to try it next time I work with the public. I often use a non-tracking mount so when people don't seem to be seeing much I take a moment to recenter the object and have them try again. Sometimes I don't notice when the person bumped the eyepiece and I look and find nothing in the field of view.

I enjoy dark skies so most of my public outreach is in darker parks that are further away from town than the typical school. You still see some young people but the mix is mostly adults with some families. You see more families if it is a campground in the summer. I do schools 3-4 times a year just to be doing my part as a volunteer for our club. I volunteer monthly at our Planetarium's observatory because it's easy to go when the gear is already on site.

#28 FlorinAndrei


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Posted 02 March 2013 - 08:15 PM

From my experience with kids (my own, my neighbors', their colleagues and friends) I learned this:

Communication, feedback, and checking on them are important. You need to ask them what's going on ("what do you see? do you see a bright yellow disk? are there 4 stars nearby?" etc). You need to make sure they actually keep the eye in the right place. In general, explain the whole thing in clear, simple sentences, and prepare them before they even touch the eyepiece. Just keep talking, asking, explaining, etc. Be clear, simple and firm. There will be a grand total of maybe 15 phrases that you will repeat 400 times; that's okay, keep repeating the slogans.

Exit pupil is important. When it's less than 1mm, even adults have some difficulties on first sight. Luckily, Jupiter looks a bit better when magnification is not really that high.

The eyepiece matters. Large, generous eye relief helps a lot - 15mm is good, 20mm is better. Fancy new optics such as 82 deg or 100 deg FoV eyepieces seem to be a bit difficult; "boring" old 68 deg FoV eyepieces appear to be more approachable for some reason. A plain old workhorse like a Baader Hyperion Modular seems newbie-friendly even though it's not that sharp and contrast-y; a newer sharp, wide, high-contrast ocular might look nice to you, but some laypeople seem to need a bit more time to adjust to it. You probably don't want to use expensive glass anyway when kids are horsing around.

You'll need some kind of adjustable chair or ladder or step-stool (or all of the above) to accommodate all sizes of kids. It's crucial that they are comfortable and relaxed.

Have an adult or two watch your back and keep the rowdy kids under control; you pay attention to the area near the eyepiece, they pay attention to everything else. Set rules ("everyone waits in line HERE!") and enforce them.

And most important: "Nobody touches the scope but me! Touching the eyepiece with your eyebrow is okay."

If you do most of the above, the event can be pretty successful. Here's an example:


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