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Observing Report, Catalina State Park, 05-04-2013

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#1 Skylook123



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Posted 05 May 2013 - 10:58 PM

Catalina State Park 30th Anniversary Celebration, May 4, 2013

Location: Catalina State Park, Catalina, AZ

Weather: Low 90s at Noon, 80 at sunset, 70s when we quit at 10 PM. Various levels of cloudiness all day and night, lots of wind gusts during the day but calmed down at sunset.

Seeing and Transparency: Average, except for the constantly changing clouds.

Equipment: 60mm Lunt solar telescope during the day 10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount at night

The Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association joined with many other organizations celebrating the 30th anniversary of Catalina State Park. Quoting the Park's informational material, CSP sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains and occupies nearly 5,500 acres. The park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and protects nearly 5,000 saguaros. The foothills, canyons, and streams invite camping, picnicking, and bird watching with miles of equestrian, hiking, and biking trails.

Included in the day's activities were hikes, live music, many information booths, raffles, kids activities, food trucks and booths, and our special contribution, an educational booth with many hands on demonstrations highlighting the science associated with our solar system, solar observing with a solar telescope, and ending with a night star party.

We started setting up around 8:30 AM in the main gravel picnic area along with about twenty other groups of various nature. While we were setting up, the Pusch Ridge Academy choir sang one of the most beautiful National Anthems I've ever heard.

Terri Lappin, the leader of our Starry Messenger Special Interest Group, and my wife Susan ran the demonstrations while I set up my solar telescope and showed views of a very active sun in H-Alpha. Over approximately seven hours, we serviced nearly four hundred visitors. VERY hot out in the sun, but we were provided with a canopy for the demonstrations which were very popular with children. Terri and Susan were demonstrating the way to tell the difference between rocks and meteor fragments, scale model represtations of the sun and planet sizes, and one very popular demonstration of an inflatable earth and moon to scale, with a heavy multicolored hawser that was scaled to the earth-moon distance and the kids got to walk the moon out to it's scaled location, a very impressive distance demonstration. Considering a talk about multi-body gravitational interaction at our last club meeting I suggested tying a knot in it at a Lagrange point but did not get a positive reaction. We had several large banners on large stands at the back of the canopy, and smaller posters with solar science propped against the front table. I got to do a LOT of solar teaching, since the sun was rife with a big sunspot group, at least four filament segments, a large faculae zone, and the limb had all kinds of things going on. Around 1 PM we got to see a wide flare form and separate from the limb and hover around for over an hour. So we got to teach the basics of solar science, and many of the visitors were aware that two coronal mass ejections (CMEs) had occurred from the east limb in the previous three days so the concept of the risk to the Earth's man made satellites and the protection provided by our magnetic field causing the auroras when the charged particles from CMEs arrived when aimed our way. Lots of science, lots of interested people in learning and seeing their sun for the first time.

I originally tried to use a Mallincam Junior video display for the educational value, but the constant cloud and atmospheric changes made it impossible to get a reliable, consistent image in the monitor so we did it the old fashioned way, one eyeball at a time at the eyepiece.

The big detriment was the unpredictable wind gusts, up to at lesat 30 MPH. Three canopies to the left of us were all blown over, with one's truss system destroyed. I ended up standing at the front corner of our setup to be dead weight and hold ours down, but after about four hours the banners and the posters had to come down before they got damaged.

Terri and Susan were awesome with the continuously migrating crowed. We averaged about one person per minute, but naturally they came in groups of five or six at a time. Luckily we brought lots of liquids, and I added some cold jello and trail mix to fight the heat, but it sure was a long day for the three of us. The visitors were extremely appreciative, and as usual we ran into some people who were interested in doing more with astronomy.

With the heavy winds picking up around 1:30, the crowd and many of the exhibitors started disappearing. The three of us ended up leaving around 3:30. I went home, took a shower, and came back for the night session at the trail head. I got there about an hour later than I wanted to as I needed to get my blood sugar under control, so I was thrilled when I got to the trailhead and found quite a crowd of TAAA members set up to support the night visitors. I ended up behind a huge tree so I couldn't see Polaris, so I just used native intelligence but found both my mechanical and digital compasses had been corrupted by some sort of magnetic anomaly at home ahd I was about six degrees off when dark arrived.

I did a different sort of introductory talk. Rather than wait for the constellations to pop out, there was so much migratory cloudiness and Jupiter would be so low that if I waited for dark to do the tour, it would interfere with Jovian study so I did a reprise of a talk I gave at the first CSP event we did a couple of years ago. The topic is, why do cultures look to the sky, and what do we know they got for the effort? So, whether Stonehenge was a calendar or a portal to an afterlife, why were the Pyramids constructed as they were, how did the Greek golden age lead to the great Arabic advances, the accomplishments of the Mayan and Chaco cultures, and the astrologer-astronomers of the middle ages all were called for a purpose so I left them with the thought of what would they find for themselves this night?

At the scope, I ended up doing mostly Mizar and the multiple star story with the temperature/color principles thrown in. I got asked by a couple of people about other cultures' approach to constellations and asterisms, so we talked a bit about Bootes herding the bears and for some, keeping the clock so the sun would end up in Virgo for the harvest, and the Navajo use of the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, and Polaris as a single constellation to teach the family as the important part of life, and using Dilyehe (the Pleiades) to guide the planting seasons. Probably a half dozen other cultural references as the clouds opened and closed sections of the sky. We were able to use Saturn and Jupiter to connect the dots and make the ecliptic, or for the Greeks the Zodiakos Kyklos (the zodiac, or the cycle of living things). We broke up about 9:30, the end of a LONG but very rewarding day.

#2 jrbarnett


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Posted 06 May 2013 - 09:31 AM

Nice report.

And, happy birthday Jim!

- Jim

#3 David Pavlich

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 03:23 PM

As always, a great report, Jim!


#4 Skylook123



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Posted 08 May 2013 - 12:52 AM

Thanks, Jim and David.

To be honest, it's a lot more fun doing it than writing about it, but writing about it is reliving it, which is pretty cool, too.

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