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Tips and Ideas for Planetary Outreach

outreach planet
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#1 ddegroot

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 10:25 AM

Hi everyone, 

I'm thinking about hosting a little event in a nearby park to introduce my neighbors to the urban night sky. I plan to show them Jupiter and possibly Saturn. 

I have some nice, smooth altazimuth mounts that work just fine for me at powers at or beyond 200x, and they're easy to transport (I have to walk about 15 minutes to get to the park). But I'm wondering: will they do the trick for planetary observing with a group? I'd love some tips from people who've done this before. Do you need equatorial/tracking mounts for this kind of thing? 

I'm also considering what telescope to bring from my little herd, which includes a TV 85, Skywatcher 100ed, 127mm Mak, and an 8" Edge. I personally prefer fine doublet refractors, but in your experience what kind of telescope usually works best for public outreach? I'm quite sure that I don't want to risk my TV 85, though it would certainly be the easiest to transport. 

Any other tips would be greatly appreciated. 

Thanks, 
D



#2 ShaulaB

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 10:53 AM

Definitely do not risk bringing items which are of high value to you. Most of the time, people are respectful at outreach events, if you give them instructions. Like don't hold on to the eyepiece. But every once in a while, someone, not always a child, does something stupid.

 

It's good to have some sort of ladder or step stool for the little ones. Adults can use the ladder to steady themselves while looking down into the eyepiece. Even if you tell people not to grab the eyepiece, they often will want to grab onto the mount or tripod, and you don't want them to do that either.

 

If you have a zoom lens, it will save you time going from one eyepiece to another. The people looking through your telescope do not have much appreciation for fine optics, so a lower-cost zoom's view would please them. Have an eyepiece that is easy to use, meaning an observer does not need to move his or her head around much to get the view. A visitor with terrible eyesight might de-focus the object, so every few people, check to see if the focus is good.

 

Having a tracking mount is really helpful for outreach. You will spend less time re-centering the object in the eyepiece. Once in a while, kids, and adults too, will bump your OTA or mount, causing the object to leave the field of view.. So make sure your finder is aligned well to speed up re-acquiring objects. It might be optimistic to go above 200x, so even 150x will suffice. If you are not using a tracking mount, be prepared to re-center the view after every couple of visitors.

 

Tell them what to expect to see in the eyepiece. Keep up chatter with interesting facts about a planet and its moons. Show them the object on a tablet or phone if available. Explain why the tablet/phone view does not match what is seen in the eyepiece.

 

I assume you are using a cart to haul your gear to an observing site that is a 15 minute walk for you.


Edited by ShaulaB, 24 June 2019 - 10:55 AM.

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#3 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 11:10 AM

I use a Celestron Evolution with a C8 and a Celestron X-Cel LX Series Eyepiece 12mm which gives a wide field of view at 167x. It will typically show Jupiter and the 4 moons. There is usually no benefit to go to a higher power and most people use lower power due to having crummier eyepieces and/or wobblier mounts or mounts with no tracking.

 

Alt/az is ideal for outreach. The Evo sets up quickly. Tracking helps so you don't need to constantly be moving the scope between each person and it allows for higher power.

 

For DSOs I use the 25mm X-Cel LX eyepiece which gives the maximum FOV with 1.25 inch.


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#4 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 11:14 AM

I use a Celestron Evolution with a C8 and a Celestron X-Cel LX Series Eyepiece 12mm which gives a wide field of view at 167x. It will typically show Jupiter and the 4 moons. There is usually no benefit to go to a higher power and most people use lower power due to having crummier eyepieces and/or wobblier mounts or mounts with no tracking.

 

Alt/az is ideal for outreach. The Evo sets up quickly. Tracking helps so you don't need to constantly be moving the scope between each person and it allows for higher power.

 

For DSOs I use the 25mm X-Cel LX eyepiece which gives the maximum FOV with 1.25 inch.

 

For the planets, I agree that somewhere between 150x and 200x is ideal, enough to show a great deal and still a large, easy to see exit pupil.  I would go with an 8 inch SCT over a small refractor or 127mm Mak as long as thermal issues won't be a factor. 

 

Jon



#5 ddegroot

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 01:27 PM

I really appreciate the guidance and suggestions! Thanks, everyone. 

D




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