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LXD55 + ST-80 = outreach success!

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#1 obin robinson

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Posted 24 December 2013 - 07:58 AM

Last night I set up the LXD-55 with my 4.5" planetary/satellite camera in the driveway. I also brought out the ST-80 which I have on a camera tripod. My initial goal was to get some views of Venus and Jupiter as well as track a few satellites I haven't seen before.

Apparently the mere act of setting up all this neat stuff in the driveway attracted the neighbor's kids so they asked if they could look at what I was looking at as well. I said "of course" so they all came over and their father joined them.

The LXD-55 is on a tall wooden tripod I built for it. I took the CCD out of the focuser and put a few different eyepieces in so the kids could see the planets. The ST-80 tripod was dropped down low so they could move it around and look for objects on their own.

During the night I pointed out several satellites and told them why I track them. I pointed out the first one and then they all could pick out the others once I showed them what to look for. They all said they thought those lights were airplanes and then were in amazement that what they were seeing was actually in outer space!

After this I introduced everyone to the various apps and software I use during the night. They were so excited they brought out their iPad and downloaded Sky Safari. Over the course of the night we all looked at Venus, Neptune, Jupiter and its moons, several stars, clusters, Andromeda, as well as a handful of satellites. They had dozens of questions about space and were excited to learn about the planets as well as actually see them with their own eyed. Eventually it got too cold for them so they went inside and I stayed out to get images of Jupiter. I would say as an unintentional outreach it was a success.

Here is what I learned:

1) German Equatorial Mounts are absolutely awesome for outreach events. 5 to 7 year old kids just need a chair and they can see through the eyepiece regardless of the angle. No complaints were heard from anyone!

2) goto mounts make neat noises and move in ways that little kids thing is awesome. tracking is a necessity so that way when 4 kids and 2 adults cycle through the eyepiece it will look the same to everyone.

3) A rich field refractor on a short camera tripod is perfect for outreach. It is the perfect complement to a more powerful telescope and it enables kids to see the wide and narrow view back to back.

I have included a quick and simple photo of my setup. It was not designed for any outreach but it sure worked well. The red light is my front door light and it doesn't kill night vision at all. The blue light low to the ground is my 'atomic' clock for syncing goto computers as well as tracking satellites.

obin :)

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#2 btb


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Posted 24 December 2013 - 08:47 AM

Sounds like a good time was had by all.

#3 StarStuff1



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Posted 25 December 2013 - 07:04 AM

Very nice, Obin. You may have sparked an interest that will grow into a career, either amateur or pro.

#4 t.r.


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Posted 28 December 2013 - 08:15 AM

I like the red security light...perfect!!! Why haven't I thought of this for my back deck?!?! :foreheadslap:

#5 Fish


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Posted 31 December 2013 - 06:53 PM

Good evening,

You think kids like hearing and watching a mount move? Add an iPad to the mix and watch the 20-somethings!

I was floored this past fall when I was at the Acadia Night Sky Festival, arguably the largest public outreach in the State of Maine. I had a Kunming 150mm f/5.9 scope on an older Meade LXD-650 mount. Rather than use the keypad I had an iPad running Sky Safari controlling the mount.

During the entire time of the star party I (and many other scope owners) had a line 10+ deep at the eyepiece. But what amazed me were the number of people just fascinated with the iPad's view of the sky, the blinking cursor showing the scope's current deep sky target and how it could manage the mount's motion.

I honestly had some younger folks more interested in the iPad screen than the actual target. Some were even surprised when I said that you could actually see the real target in the eyepiece!

Technology is wonderful but this example makes you wonder if the big picture is being missed.

Regards, Marc

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