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Advice on an outreach program

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#1 A. Viegas

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 09:26 PM

I am thinking about hosting a community outreach event for my neighbors. I was thinking about setting up two telescopes. A cpc1100 with a mallincam and 19" monitor for DSOs and my Istar 150mm refractor for moon, Saturn and double stars.

This would be the first outreach I have done, so is this over reaching a bit?

Does anyone have a program they could suggest from experience in terms of objects? I was thinking like 2-3 hrs from sunset through maybe 10:30 and then sort of free observing after that... Having two telescopes could give people more options but i am also a bit worried about how to manage people flow...

A sort of third option would be to set up my C8 with 80mm piggyback,refractor and offer mallincam pus direct views through the eyepiece... Although this may be slightly underwhelming...

Thx
Al

#2 jerwin

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 11:16 PM

depending on your light pollution I'd say Saturn and the moon are your best bets. A faint fuzzy that may wow us often goes unnoticed to the average person. Having said that I don't know what your able to pull in on that mallincam. If you can adjust the brightness and contrast enough and get something like M13 or a galaxy or pair like M81 and 82 then yeah go for it.

Sometimes too trying to babysit more than one scope can be a handful as most people (FOR WHATEVER REASON WHICH IS UNKNOWN TO ME) want to grab the eyepiece and jerk down on it. Then kids you need to keep an eye on because again for some reason unknown to me me, some of them like to touch the glass of the eyepiece. Then if you get people running around the cables and everything else, it just ends up being a scary few hours.

So personally if it was me, I'd setup my CPC only, put Saturn in the middle of the eyepiece for a bit, and then switch over to the moon. I'd let them know when they see Saturn that in a little bit you'll put it on the moon and they should come back, and depending on how many people you have, maybe ask them when they are looking at the moon if they saw Saturn earlier. If they didn't and you don't have a line, zip over and give them a double wow. :)

Know a little bit about your targets because you'll get questions like can you see the flag or how many moons does Saturn have, how far away is something, how big, stuff like that.

Good luck and clear skies,
Jim

#3 ElkoAstro

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 02:55 PM


I would suggest TWO people for two telescopes. Also download a skymap from SKYMAPS.COM for a nice handout and, as was stated before, be prepared for questions.
HTH
Gerry Pennington
Spring Creek, Nevada

#4 skyguy88

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 03:27 PM

How good is your sky and how comfortable are you discussing stellar evolution and element formation? If you have decent views and like to discuss the ideas of astronomy, you can do a wonderful evening.

First, find someone to help with the refractor and concentrate on the CPC/Mallincam.

There is a wealth of wonderful targets that show brilliantly with the camera...if your sky is OK.

I would start with M57 and M27. Discuss these beautiful Planetaries and their role in forming elements. Then go to M17, 16, 20, 8, the spectacular star forming emission nebulae.

Certainly do M13. Then a few galaxies like M51, M82, M104, NGC 4565, and take a crack at NGC 4414 with its very prominent supernova(look for images of 4414 with sn in advance so you can identify the sn).

My notion of outreach is that the most important thing that you can do is to engage visitors in the ideas. The camera views grab their attention and the conversation solidifies their interest.

Good luck,

Bill

#5 StarStuff1

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 03:35 PM

Since this is your first outreach and it appears you are doing it alone my recommendation would be to NOT set up two expensive/large telescopes. Saturn and the Moon are both great objects and "WOW" the public every time. If you had a helper another scope would make things easier. And altho the Mallincam is a great camera I am not sure DSOs are what you want to show in this type of outreach event.

#6 A. Viegas

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 05:50 PM

Great advice everyone. I think I may just set up one telescope... I am thinking the Refractor and I can do Saturn + The moon (should i set up with binoviewer? or not for planets/moon?). Then depending on group interest, i can set up the Mallincam and do some bright DSOs...

In terms of answering questions I am not too worried... although I am just a year back into the hobby I was at one time long-ago a serious astrophysics geek...

Al

P.S. anyone have any template flyers for public observing? something in powerpoint or word would be great if I can just adapt the text. Thx!

#7 ggalilei

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 06:07 PM

From my experience, I concur that a single telescope pointed at Saturn and the Moon for direct visual observations is your best bet. Anything printed for the session, you've got to realize that it's going to be difficult to read in partial darkness, and few people care to read details anyway, your verbal comments will be more than sufficient. I would definitely point out where Titan is, and when I show the Moon sometimes I prepare a LARGE print handout that only lists two or three interesting and easy to identify features. Too much information is not useful.
Have fun!
Tonino.

#8 kfiscus

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 11:36 AM

To the OP, I agree with ggalilei on the printed materials. I'd limit it to a business card or similar with "Got more questions?" and contact info. Make it available to those interested, don't give out to everyone. Avoid dated info so that you can print out lots and use repeatedly. I do a yearly outreach (14 years now) and max attendance was 550.

I have run 1 and 2 scopes myself, one is much safer. The trick I used with a 2nd scope was to have a scope on an EQ platform running a Meade digital EP ($35) into a small TV showing the moon. I had this setup on a flat trailer whose sides prevented people from bumping or messing anything up. The trailer was more susceptible to vibration from wind or humans but the moon was a big enough target to be forgiving.

#9 Pharquart

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 11:53 AM

I regularly do sidewalk outreach with 2 telescopes. I use a 10" Dob and an 8" SCT. I usually point the SCT at Saturn and let it track. I point the Dob at the moon, and I stand next to the Dob and look through the finder so I can keep the Dob pointed at the moon over time. I have the SCT close enough (just a few steps away) that I can watch how people are interacting with it, or rotate the diagonal to help particularly short/tall people. Most people are respectful and careful. Most. There are tons of horror stories about bad incidents caused by both adults and kids. I haven't experienced many at all after almost 2 years of doing it. Your mileage may vary.

In my experience, new viewers are much more impressed by something they can see with their own eye vs. something on a video screen. It might be an identical view, or it might actually be more clear or colorful on a video, but the idea of seeing the actual light from Saturn on their retinas really blows people away. An image on a screen is just a picture. Far less psychological impact. So I recommend using both telescopes visually, one on the moon and one on Saturn.

I second the recommendation against DSOs for outreach, but it depends on your local light pollution and how well you might be able to pull in a faint fuzzy with your Mallincam. Even under dark conditions, DSOs are often disappointing to new viewers who are expecting something like the colorful, detailed astrophotos. Add a little light pollution and you're more likely to get something like "Really? That smudge?" For me in my suburb (admittedly set up close to streetlights), even a glorious globular like M13 is tough to resolve. Perhaps you start the night on the bright, showy objects like Saturn and the moon. For anyone who's really interested, and if there isn't a line for the bright objects, slew over to a good DSO either visually or through the camera.

On the binoviewer: it won't hurt to have it out and ready to go, but I think newbies might have more trouble merging the images and/or getting the eyepiece separation distance set right. Don't start with it, or at least be prepared to pull it if it's causing more problems than it helps. The moon through a bino is wonderful if it works, but slowing down the line tries people's patience. Maybe after everyone has had a look through a single eyepiece, pull out the binos and let people take a second look with both eyes.

Best of luck! I absolutely LOVE sharing the skies with people.

Brian

#10 Doc Willie

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 03:50 PM

I like to give out the sky charts from skymaps.com, so they can do some naked eye observing, and have something to follow up with.

#11 skyguy88

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 05:42 PM

Hey Guys,

Until a few years ago, I would have agreed that all you could hope to introduce visitors to were solar system objects. Faint fuzzies don't excite.

Times changed with the availability of nearly live video observing. I've done over 150 video outreach projects and I can assure you that a 14 second image of M 27 will have as much impact as anything in the solar system. But beyond the WOW factor, M 27 in brilliant color immediately makes folks receptive to the ideas of element formation and stellar evolution.

No smudges. No "pulling out" faint fuzzies.

Just real, recognizable galaxies. Sharp, brilliantly colored star forming regions. All ideal for engaging visitors, getting them to think about the universe.

Amateur astronomers bemoan the lack of public interest in this wonderful science. Here is a way to enhance interaction and generate interest. We can now go beyond our tiny little corner of the universe and bring the public along.

I agree, "We are of the stars, the dust of explosions cast across space". Video provides a way to share that big idea.

Bill

#12 tadpoletoo

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 06:49 PM

Hi, A handheld laser pointing out some of the brighter stars and constellations seems to capture their attention.

#13 kfiscus

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 12:47 PM

Agreed- IF there isn't too much light pollution around.

#14 Doc Willie

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Posted 16 July 2013 - 12:36 PM

Hi, A handheld laser pointing out some of the brighter stars and constellations seems to capture their attention.

The laser itself often captures attention. Then you get kids asking where they can get one.

#15 Doug Reilly

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Posted 16 July 2013 - 01:13 PM

I do outreach in a small city, and i do include DSOs. I start with the moon or planets, a few double stars, and then i move farther out. I stick with the larger and brighter ones. The Ring, Dumbell, M13, m81/m82 are common targets for me this time of year. Certainly nothing wows like the moon or saturn, but i find DSOs can wow if you provide context so they understand what they are seeing. Some people can get it, some don't, but most appreciate that they are seeing light that has been travelling for millions of years. I think a great challenge of astronomy as a hobby even for us is bridging conceptual understanding with the observations we can make ourselves.

I would definitely recommend only one scope!

#16 hfjacinto

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Posted 16 July 2013 - 07:21 PM

When I do outreach I generally only bring one scope (unless I'm imaging with the other, but that was so frustrating I doubt I will do it again).

One scope a list of objects, generally 1 or 2 bright star clusters, the moon and a planet. After everyone goes ohh and Ahh over the basic objects, I may try for some nebular (like M27).

Most people pack it up by 10:30, actually by 10PM, I don't have many people around unless its at a dark site and on those nights, I've had people around till 1AM.

#17 hfjacinto

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Posted 16 July 2013 - 07:22 PM

One more piece of advice, no binoviewers, some people can't merge and others have 2 different vision in each eye. Mono is easier for outreach.






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