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Family Observing Sun and Moon In Video

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#1 Skylook123



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Posted 23 June 2013 - 03:58 PM

Our club, Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association, has many Special Interest Groups and other focused projects. One is the Family Observing Program, where entire families with children ages 6 and up get together monthly at the Flandrau Planetarium at the University of Arizona. Last night's agenda was:
I. Virtual Observing (6:00 pm-7:00 pm)
1. Children will use the planetarium program Stellarium to find what is up in the night sky.
2. We will find the Big Dipper and discuss the bright stars and what the significance of the two pointer stars are.
3. We will identify Leo, which will be setting in the West and Virgo.
4. Saturn is in Virgo – we will be able to identify Cassini Division as 5 moons of Saturn.

II. Hands-on Activity (7:00 pm – 8:00 pm)
Constellation Myths – Summer constellation chosen by children.

III. Outside Observing (8:00 pm – 9:00 pm)
The moon is full and at perigee – meaning it will be very bright. We will try to observe at the eyepiece what we did in the planetarium program between 6 and 7 pm).

With the rousing success using the Mallincam Junior at the Grand Canyon Star Party, I offered Bob Gilroy, our club president and leader of the Family Observing Program, the use of video augmentation to the agenda. Since Bob is now our club president, and I am now vice-president, and we have worked together on our education goals for several years, it was a slam dunk to add video to the tools we use to nibble on the great wooly mammoth of observational astronomy for young folks. So, as a surprise to the kids, I set up the Mallincam Junior on the UofA mall in front of the Flandrau Planetarium, first with a Lunt 60mm H-Alpha scope, later with a 90mm Orion ShortTube refractor for the moon.

I came into the study room around 6:45 PM and let Bob know that the sun was ready to show, so the students had a real image of the sun with all it's Solar Max going on, and with their parents' help could do their sketching assignment with a real live active sun rather than book learning. They went back in for the middle of the agenda while I swapped optical tubes. It took quite a while for the moon to clear low buildings, then a huge palm tree, but the full orb was finally fully clear and in all of its glory. Families came back out and we had quite a nice time pointing out the Lunar Poodle, the Lady in the Moon, and the gorgeous Copernicus and the rays spreading across the upper image. It took me a bit of time to get accustomed to the image reversals in the refractor compared to a week of SCT showing at the Grand Canyon, but it ended up being a perfect night for both weather and teaching how the Mare came to be, where did the Apollo 11 land, and other interesting features on the monitor. We ended up with about twice as many UofA passers by as our own Family Program participants, so Bob and I were able to teach nuances of the lunar orbital mechanics and what the Super Moon meant, how eclipses occur and the periodicity, why don't the Moon and Mars have an atmosphere, and other features of solar system behavior to the passers by.

Not bad for a few ounces of camera, seven pound tripod and mount, two telescopes about six pounds each, a table, a 1 pound 13.3" LCD monitor, and a battery.

Note to Self - Buy a set of jumper cables. Don't load the truck with the motor off, headlights and flashers on, and stand around far too long socializing with Bob. It took 45 minutes for AAA to show up for the jump. Two 35AH deep cycle astro batteries in the truck, no jumper cables. DUH.

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