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A Busy Day And Night With Young Folks

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#1 Skylook123

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Posted 22 September 2013 - 06:34 PM

This past Saturday was a pretty busy one with both public outreach and internal club activities. We started out at around 7:30 AM supporting a Cub Scout Advancement Day, where Cub Scout packs from around the local council get centralized assistance in accomplishing the tasks that they need for various achievements. In our case, club member Joe Statkevicus, one of the scout leaders, provided four telescopes for white light solar observing and coordinated the Boy Scouts aiding in the mandatory parts of the astronomy belt loop awards, while Paul Anderson provided three telescopes for the focusing part of their exercise and Terri Lappin and my wife Susan did the mandatory Solar System planetary identification, plus a meteorite identification and demonstration. I filled in with a Lunt 60mm H-Alpha solar scope to compete the picture of our solar system while the Cub Scouts accomplished their task objectives.

We were busy for about seven hours as over 200 Cub Scouts and parents came through our area in groups. Joe had set up canopies for the hands on demonstrations, but, let's face it, you've got to be under the sun to observe the sun. So, we kept ourselves hydrated under the mid-90s temperatures, and the sun cooperated quite well for our solar observing "bonus" treat. Nice sunspot groups in the white light telescopes, run by the Boy Scouts, while in H-Alpha the sun had prominence groups around nearly 70 percent of the solar limb, two visible sunspot groups, and one huge faculae area that, in the last hour of our presence, actually threw out a filament boundary that we saw grow over the last forty-five minutes or so. Great experience for the tail end Charleys in the throng of scouts coming through. The clouds finally crowded out the sun, so that portion of the adventure was curtailed, but the mandatory telescope focusing and the naming and ordering of the planets of the Solar System could continue. Susan started having a bad but predicted reaction to some IV treatment she had had the afternoon before, so she had to leave around 1 PM so Terri carried the whole load of the Solar System domain, and Joe was awesome with all the scope management and provided the tents, and the Boy Scout mentors for the Cub Scouts were great facilitators to the whole session. I was disappointed that I had brought the wrong table to support my video monitor for the Lunt, but the old fashioned eyepiece viewing without a live video display worked just fine. It was, however, good to be finished.

After recovering at home for a while, I talked with club president Bob Gilroy about our club's night Family Observing program at Flandrau Planetarium so I decided to wander down there and help out. This month's topics were to discuss the life cycle of stars, and see how the students (the intended age group is four to eight years of age plus parents) were doing on the learning of some constellations, a few bright stars in them, and some Deep Sky Objects to observe in them. Club members Don Cain and Chuck Hendricks came to help with the night observing part of the program, while I was going to help Bob with a constellation mythology tour appropriate to the ages. But, the clouds that cut off our solar observing kept rolling in so we lost the night sky part of the evening. In place of Chuck setting up his telescope on the University of Arizona Mall, I came up with a sort of physical demonstration of the life cycle of stars. Bob started things off with a simple discussion of the Big Bang, and all the hydrogen finally coming into existence out of the primordial particle soup. Then I had the children all stand in a group in the center of our demonstration/teaching room in Flandrau, and I had them hold out their arms. I told them that all of their names were now hydrogen, and they wanted to keep the space around them clear. We adults, parents and we other four, were called gravity and we started shrinking the space around the little hydrogen folks. We crept in closer and closer until there wasn't enough room for each hydrogen to be alone. When the arms of two the little hydrogen folks would touch, we had them put their arms on each others' shoulders and their names changed to helium, but they had to give up some light to do it. So, as we crowded them in, the hydrogens kept making helium, which pushed us gravities back a bit but eventually the hydrogens were mostly merged into heliums, and we gravities squeezed them together. Well, that meant that when the heliums clumped together, we called them Carbon and Oxygen, and it pushed us gravities back and made us all a red giant. Eventually, all of the star was drifting away, and all we had left was the white dwarf. We talked a bit about the size and temperature that was left, and how it would eventually cool down and when we were zipping about in our space cruisers we need to watch out for the leftovers in our way. We also talked supernovas, going back to Bob's initial universe of hydrogen becoming stars, and the end of life of stars being the source of every thing else - tables in the room, the building we were in, even the cars they used to come to the meeting, and how when we did our merging of atoms exercise we could go all the way to iron, which led to the question were did we all come from? Well, we use the iron from the end of life of the star to cary the oxygen in our blood, so we're all star stuff. I had them hold their hands in the air and close them, and bring them down, and now they were holding a piece of what was in a star at the end of its life.

Bob had some great examples of relative sizes of stars with tennis balls, ping pong balls, and beads on sticks. It was a great way to demonstrate why some stars end their lives simply, while others are the catastrophic end in a supernova and might end in a black hole. Lot's of good discussion, sharp group of very young children who bought in to the whole experience. We ended up with some constellation and myth discussions, at their level of involvement, focusing around a double star in each of the four constellations or asterisms we talked about. Even without being able to do the telescopes outdoors, it was a pretty good evening.

Once again my favorite phrase came to mind; You never know what life you'll touch. Let's get out there and touch some lives!

#2 skyguy88

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Posted 23 September 2013 - 01:39 AM

Hi Jim,

We'll never keep up with TAAA but we do a pretty good imitation in Prescott. I did a live video observing evening at Lowell on Wednesday with a couple hundred visitors. Thursday evening we had our regular Third Thursday astronomy talk at the Prescott Library. Father Corbally of the Vatican Observatory presented a talk on Upgrades to the Vatican's astronomy program. Friday evening we did an observing program for 175 Girl Scouts from Phoenix at a camp in the mountains south of Prescott. 8 scopes and binocs. Great kids and a wonderful evening.

Saturday night we had a combined program including a Solar talk by one of our members and a star party at The Highlands Center for Natural History. The HC is a wonderful site for astronomy, with a fully equipped auditorium set in the Prescott National Forest just a couple of miles from the center of Prescott. After the talk we shut down all the lights and do the star party just a few steps from the building...and it's dark.

We have two seasons for public, school, and camp programs. From the end of the monsoon until early December we cram in as many programs as we can manage. From the middle of December until late March, the nights are too cold to keep people outside. From March through June we cram again. So we squeeze a year's programs into about 7 months.

I tried another wrinkle at Lowell on Wednesday night. I set up the scope and video camera about an hour before sunset. There were quite a few folks around ready to think about astronomy so I linked into the Night Skies Network where one of the guys was webcasting his observing session. He was using a Halpha filter so he was able to get some nice views of galaxies and more despite the bright moon (the broadcast was coming from PA). Using NSN extended the observing evening by more than an hour. I'm thinking of NSN as a backup solution for cloudy nights.

Keep up the good work.

Bill

#3 MikeBOKC

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Posted 23 September 2013 - 07:33 AM

Fun times. OKC Astronomy Club had about 8 scopes and members at a local Scout camp for a district-wide Webelos campout Saturday night. Probably 300 Scouts and leaders on hand for a fun night under very clear skies.

#4 Skylook123

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 08:10 AM

Hi Jim,

We'll never keep up with TAAA but we do a pretty good imitation in Prescott. I did a live video observing evening at Lowell on Wednesday with a couple hundred visitors. Thursday evening we had our regular Third Thursday astronomy talk at the Prescott Library. Father Corbally of the Vatican Observatory presented a talk on Upgrades to the Vatican's astronomy program. Friday evening we did an observing program for 175 Girl Scouts from Phoenix at a camp in the mountains south of Prescott. 8 scopes and binocs. Great kids and a wonderful evening.

Saturday night we had a combined program including a Solar talk by one of our members and a star party at The Highlands Center for Natural History. The HC is a wonderful site for astronomy, with a fully equipped auditorium set in the Prescott National Forest just a couple of miles from the center of Prescott. After the talk we shut down all the lights and do the star party just a few steps from the building...and it's dark.

We have two seasons for public, school, and camp programs. From the end of the monsoon until early December we cram in as many programs as we can manage. From the middle of December until late March, the nights are too cold to keep people outside. From March through June we cram again. So we squeeze a year's programs into about 7 months.

I tried another wrinkle at Lowell on Wednesday night. I set up the scope and video camera about an hour before sunset. There were quite a few folks around ready to think about astronomy so I linked into the Night Skies Network where one of the guys was webcasting his observing session. He was using a Halpha filter so he was able to get some nice views of galaxies and more despite the bright moon (the broadcast was coming from PA). Using NSN extended the observing evening by more than an hour. I'm thinking of NSN as a backup solution for cloudy nights.

Keep up the good work.

Bill


Thanks for adding the great things you're doing up there in Flagstaff. Our big feature is a larger population base and bigger club to throw into the task. I know the Flagstaff, Prescott and Verde Valley areas also benefit from some great contributions to the opening of the universe by some folks who offer so much. I have been too gosh-awful busy with work and family health issues to start diving into NSN yet, but when my Mallincam Color Hyper Plus arrives next month to augment my Mallincam Junior, more learning is in store.

You might notice an undercurrent in my tales of exploration. A good portion of our adventures with the public down here are one-on-one but at a large scale. You've perfected the one on many with your video and other augmented sessions. Although my week with video at GCSP was a real awakening to the advantages, let's face it, I do a lot of this for me, and I get a big charge out of the one on one. Also, I'm the only live video practitioner among our band of about fifty outreachers, and I've only done it at GCSP, and one night on UofA Mall with the moon. This weekend I'll be trying it out with the Junior at Biosphere 2 for a special event. When I saw your work the first night at GCSP this year, I committed to upgrading and it's on the way. Different horses for different courses.

Here's the BIG news that I'll announce here for the first time. Jack Huerkamp, MallincamUSA, will be with us for the whole week at GCSP 2014!

My original purpose with this thread was the kids. That's where the fun was this past weekend, and that's where video will help. But I did have one or two people each night at the Grand Canyon who felt a more personal involvement in the experience with the eyepiece views. So I'll still make choices depending on the crowd size and purpose of the outreach. But I've GOT to get to Lowell to learn how you go about your mission. After all, you got me started down this path years ago.

#5 Skylook123

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 08:15 AM

Fun times. OKC Astronomy Club had about 8 scopes and members at a local Scout camp for a district-wide Webelos campout Saturday night. Probably 300 Scouts and leaders on hand for a fun night under very clear skies.


Great support! My very first outreach about 15 years ago was a combined Boy Scout and Webelos camporee at an Air Force base. I ended up being solo when the two other volunteers were no-shows. I still have nightmares about that one. I'll bet you opened more than a few minds to looking up and getting more aware of their environment. Way to go!

#6 skyguy88

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 01:32 AM

[quote

My original purpose with this thread was the kids. That's where the fun was this past weekend, and that's where video will help. But I did have one or two people each night at the Grand Canyon who felt a more personal involvement in the experience with the eyepiece views. [/quote]

Hi Jim,

We had a star party scheduled at a camp in the mountains just outside of town last Thursday. After a beautiful clear day clouds moved in just about sunset. We had to cancel the observing session but the kids gathered in a little theater and we did a few impromptu talks. I used my MW model to talk about galaxies. At one point, I mentioned the black hole at the center of the MW. Immediately, a whole flock of hands shot up. I've noticed that reaction before, but it really stood out this time. As a result of that experience I'm thinking that it would be good to set up a separate black hole station at Star Parties. There are some good video clips and graphics and I suspect that our club has some members who don't come with scopes but who could man the station and answer questions. BHs are just one of many topics that don't lend themselves to observing, but capture youthful imaginations.

On Saturday night at Lowell, I had M27 on screen and a guy wandered by after having just seen the dumbbell through an EP. He was incredulous. He didn't want to believe that the color was real. It took me 10 minutes to persuade him that I wasn't pulling his leg. I had to invoke human optical limitations and camera concepts. Eventually we went through the stellar evolution / element formation story and I think that he left convinced. See, you visual observers make my job harder. :)

Three programs and a meeting this week.

Regards,

Bill

Looks like I haven't figured out this quote system.

#7 Skylook123

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 07:55 AM

I often find the whole retail/wholesale aspects of outreach fascinating. On many of our outings, we also have our Starry Messenger Special Interest Group along; about half a dozen of us use kits from JPL that explore all aspects of cosmology, like the one we used for the Cub Scouts that models the solar system with a big yellow ball and cups of material like Play-Doh each with a stick and a scale model of a planet, and they have to align the cups in order across the table. One I've used a lot is a moderate sized can with a rubber-like sheet stretched over it like a tom-tom. We have an extremely dense ball about the size of a tennis ball, and a set of less dense items like marbles or bigger balls. We first start the balls moving around the rubber sheet and "space" somewhat deforms. Then we drop the big "black hole" onto the sheet, and the rubber sheet of space deforms almost down to the table top. We have about 30 different kinds of these kits we can take with us, and we'll use one to four depending on the size of the audience and preferences of the SMSIG participants who come with the astronomer volunteers. We have a cool one we use when we have a large lawn to work with; a yellow ball about the size of a basketball, with a rope connecting it to a smaller blow up Earth to scale and the rope stretches out maybe 10 yards or so to show the scale. We also have the ability to put a smaller ball and string connected to the blowup Earth to show the scale of the sun, Earth, and moon on the athletic field.

Up at the Grand Canyon, with apertures above about 10", The Ring and Dumbbell both show the blue-green hue of the OIII naturally. Even down in Tucson, my 18" will show some color in most of the planetaries we show. Great introduction to the stellar life cycle discussion. Just did the daytime version of showing an image capture of both of them when we were teaching the stellar life cycle part of our twice a year Fundamentals of Astronomy class for club members on Saturday. Seeing it in the monitor is really primes the pump for these lessons, so does the viewing of all the eye candy in Sagittarius in "living color".

SO much fun in this outreach game, bringing the universe alive! This past Saturday I did live solar with the Mallincam at Biosphere 2, and the reaction to the monitor image of the nuclear fusion example is priceless.






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