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School group scheduled observing during a full moon - Help!

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#1 1983cowboy

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Posted 02 November 2021 - 08:35 PM

I need a few ideas for observing during a full moon with a bunch of middle schoolers.

 

Each year, (except during COVID of course) one of my wife’s teacher colleagues asks me to set up a monthly astronomy observing night. We’ve done this for well over 10 years now, but this year, there’s an extra teacher helping organize our activities who doesn’t know to try to avoid the brighter moon phases when making the schedule.

 

So, our first session this year is Friday night, November 19. The moon will be as full as full gets.

 

I guess Jupiter and Saturn will be above the horizon for a while, but they’re getting pretty low these days. Anyway, are there any ideas out there for objects that might be decent in the glare? (I’ll mention to try to schedule during first quarter or smaller moon phases going forward.)

 

Oh, and I’ll be bringing my C8, an 80mm f/6 refractor, and the school’s 6” Dob.

 

Thanks everybody!


Edited by 1983cowboy, 02 November 2021 - 08:37 PM.


#2 Napp

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Posted 02 November 2021 - 08:39 PM

Venus should still be visible.  Too bad the session is not in the early morning hours on the 19th.  You could show them an almost total lunar eclipse.


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#3 astrophile

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Posted 02 November 2021 - 08:56 PM

Jupiter and Saturn will still be well above the horizon, especially if the session starts early in the evening as school astro events usually do.  Those two will probably save the day night.  Check and see if there's anything interesting like a shadow transit happening--unlikely but worth looking.

 

Alberio is a beautiful double star with contrasting colors they can perceive; for the more ambitious, follow it up with the double-double in Lyra.  Both of those got some interest in a recent high school outreach we did.  The Coathanger asterism on the other side of Cygnus is a fun target too.


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#4 1983cowboy

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Posted 02 November 2021 - 08:57 PM

I know, right?! A lunar eclipse would be so cool for them.

 

I'm hoping some open clusters in Cassiopeia might not be to badly washed out.


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#5 pretyro

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Posted 02 November 2021 - 10:19 PM

     I think a good place to begin is on the computer screen (it is what the kids live on these days).  See https://www.theplanetstoday.com/#.  You can point out that tonight (ie Nov 19) you can’t see much of Mars or the Scorpio constellation because they are behind the sun.  It helps reinforce that the Earth and planets are revolving around the Sun, whereas the stars are not revolving around the sun. 

 

     When finally looking up, naturally Polaris and the big and small dippers are nice targets.  Any planets that are still up helps introduce the concept of the ecliptic. 

 

     The summer triangle will still be up in the west, visible and recognizable by naked eye, which makes it more relevant to kids.  Then you can show them (via the telescope or even finder scope) that each star is in a different constellation; none of which are zodiacal.  Which introduces them to concept that there are many constellations beyond the 12 they are familiar with.  If you can get Vega, you could also show them the nearby doublets. 

     Similarly, the Great Square being near the zenith early in the evening, should be easy to spot.  Once they can identify something (and are able to return to it by themselves), you can work from there and point out, for example the rest of Pegasus and Enif at its nose.

 

     Orion (and belt) is also well known.  And Betelguese is huge, bright, far away and means armpit (what’s not to like).  You know, the usual tidbits.   And it should be visible (being 30 degrees lower in the sky than the moon).  If there are no aircraft around, a green laser pointer helps to point things out.

     The Pleiades is a nice target because many folks have heard of it (but it will be really close to the moon that night). 

 

     Sirius, being the brightest, gets attention.  It will be up a little later that night though.

 

     After an hour or so of observing, return to the summer triangle to show that it is beginning to set (Altair sets first), whereas Polaris does not set.  This helps introduce the concept of the tilt of the Earth’s axis.

 

    Any clusters or DSOs would be great too.  It would be awesome to show them a galaxy outside the Milkyway.


Edited by pretyro, 02 November 2021 - 10:21 PM.


#6 mrlovt

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Posted 02 November 2021 - 10:26 PM

Don't forget to grab a variable polarizing filter and give them a good look at the moon!


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#7 astrohamp

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Posted 03 November 2021 - 01:54 PM

I'm guessing you have had, or will have,a chat with your co-organizer, and good for you and your outreach.

Others point to good possibilities.

Since the moon is out and if the f/6 refractor is tracking, set it up and leave it on the moon.  If moon moves in the eyepiece even better as a 2nd and 3rd observation will reveal new features.  Have a moon map handy so they can look to identify major/minor craters or rilles.  Gotta have the variable polarizer or not much hope of seeing anything else afterwords.  

Andromeda maybe to cover galaxies, the Pleiades (although close to the moon) for open clusters possibly others and M15 can be the globular cluster of choice.

Lastly, objects you are able to observe with your C8 can be used as targets for small groups assembled around the schools 6" Dob.  Printed star charts in young hands, another at the guide scope, third at the eyepiece, 4th looking up locating regional constellation.  The idea is to let the group locate an object, star, planet... with "crowd control" in the background, assistance not necessarily required, although may be used to help identify/confirm object found.
 



#8 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 03 November 2021 - 02:04 PM

I would hope to be clouded out.  Full moon, not good.  You will be limited to Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus. In my experience, double stars are  "meh" to most people, but not to me.

 

Some science teachers don't have a clue about observational astronomy.  I have seen it first hand. Some of them need as much education about it as their students.

 

First quarter moon would be the time to do this.


Edited by John Fitzgerald, 03 November 2021 - 02:05 PM.

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#9 maroubra_boy

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Posted 03 November 2021 - 07:36 PM

No need to scorn the Full Moon though! You only just don't know what it has to offer in order to make an outreach event a successful one around a full Moon phase. You may not have much of a choice with the timing of an event (as 1983cowboy is faced with), but the fuller Moon actually presents an opportunity to discuss planetary formation. Sure, you won't see galaxies or some other DSO's in their full glory, but you won't achieve this under Big Smoke skies either. So if the Moon is prominent, then adapt what would be your typical outreach fare. No use in cussing and dismissing an event because there's a full Moon out. Adapt.

Ok, you have three scopes. There is one thing you can do WITH THE MOON between two of them, namely the school's dob and your C8, and then move on to other stuff.

The full Moon is not the shadow-less, featureless orb that it is made out to be. There is real treasure to plunder on the full Moon, IF you know where to look and what to look for.

The dob: Have it set to give a view of the full Moon and put a polarizing filter in the eyepiece or an #82A filter. This will improve the contrast to showcase the differences between the multitude of lava plains AND the pyroclastic flow fields! While there is no atmosphere or water for erosion to take place on the Moon, WEATHERING does take place because of the solar wind. GEOLOGY LEASON: lava and pyroclastic flows are not all the same chemically. As a result, these different chemical compositions will react differently to the solar wind. Some will darken and others lighten in tone, with everything in between. This is part of the reason why we are able to see the dark Maria (Seas) on the Moon without a telescope.

Weathering also affects the appearance of the ejecta material around craters. With young/recent impacts, the collar of ejecta around them is bright, such as with Tycho. Older craters have been exposed to more weathering from the solar wind and over time their once brilliant collars lose their sheen to become as unremarkable as any of the surrounding mountains and craters. Copernicus is older than Tycho - its collar is bright but not as bright as Tycho's. Then you have Erastothenes which is right beside Copernicus - its ejecta collar has totally lost all its brilliance and is only identifiable by the mass of rubble that is the collar.

So with the dob showing the full Moon, the participants will be able to seen all of this. The Moon has A LOT of information on display that gives strong clues to the relative age of different features. The Maria are among the very oldest of features on the lunar surface, and how flooded or not craters are another clue - big craters that are flooded are very old and the Moon was very hot and had a thin crust, whereas big craters that are not flooded at all formed when the Moon had cooled so much that the crust was too thick for lava to punch through the hole created by the exploding asteroid or comet.

The C8: With its tracking capability, you can show the shadows that the full Moon has to show - along its limb. Here you will see craters, valleys, rilles and mountains, not from above as we are most familiar with, but in profile! You can get a totally different 3D feel for the lunar surface this way.

The pic below is of a sketch of mine done at the eyepiece of this very area along the limb.

I hope that this different perspective of the full Moon helps inspire you to make more use of the full Moon in your outreach session. You will need to explain to the participants what it is that they should keep an eye out to actually observe/pick out the features of interest - it isn't just about getting an eye-full of the full Moon but to actually SEE what is has to show and understand what it is that they are looking at!

Other ideas:

Others here have posted some good DSO and planetary fare, along with the partial lunar eclipse (though I'm not too sure that its timing will coincide with your event).

Oh, also check with an app such as Sky Safari if on the night of your event there will be a shadow transit on Jupiter or if the GRS will be visible. You may also like to make a print out of some of the things for people to look at/identify at the eyepiece within the different things that they will be shown. This can include the different tones on the lunar surface, the names & positions of the Galilean Moons as seen around Jupiter that night and around Saturn, and things with the various DSO's.

You can challenge the crowd to think about why it is that Venus is seen as a crescent and how this and its changing position in the sky from night to night shows its orbit around the Sun and inside our own orbit.

Oh, and the largest asteroid in the solar system is also visible, Ceres, which is in the asteroid belt. On the 19th it will be located within the open cluster the Hyades. If you do a print out you can add a little chart of its location within the Hyades for folks to spot it in the eyepiece.

For the more adventurous, you can also try for Neptune and Uranus, using their distinctive colours to identify them from their surrounding starfields.

So, yeah, it is a night of the full Moon, but there is still so much on offer on the 19th. You just need a more open mind and a bit of imagination on how to create the excitement and enthusiasm for the event to be successfull.

Cheers,

Alex.

PS: do you encourage, or are thinking of encouraging, the wider school community that will be attending this event to bring their own scopes and/or binos? This isn't necessarily a thing to do, and I am only asking as a fellow outreach enthusiast. Binos in particular most people are not aware that these are a great astro tool, not just telescopes.

Alex.

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Edited by maroubra_boy, 04 November 2021 - 07:51 AM.

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#10 DSOGabe

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Posted 04 November 2021 - 12:01 PM

I know, right?! A lunar eclipse would be so cool for them.

 

I'm hoping some open clusters in Cassiopeia might not be to badly washed out.

The brighter ones should still be visible. Don't forget about the Double Cluster- that will stand out no matter what! 



#11 ShaulaB

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Posted 04 November 2021 - 12:15 PM

Using a green laser, pointing out constellations takes up some time. Some of the constellation stories are kind of raunchy (Zeus being a player) so avoid those.

Pointing out the naked eye planets helps kids understand why they are named after gods people worshipped three thousand years ago. Humans have been looking up at the night sky for a long time. Mention that before electric lighting, most people saw many more stars. People knew about sky movement and Moon phases without having to read about them. Sailors crossed oceans with knowledge of naked eye stars.

Show them which direction the sky moves. Challenge them to see if they can notice how a star or planet changes position relative to a building or tree over a half hour.

Kids will be interested in anything you have to tell them. All this is new. What you might think is boring because you have seen it 100 times will be "awesome" to a complete newbie.
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#12 GGK

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Posted 04 November 2021 - 02:43 PM

Just throwing out ideas:

 

Put the refractor on the full moon with a 1.5 to 2 degree FOV, give or take, with as much magnification as you can get at that TFoV.  I get good reception with this view from younger folks -- gives the "feel" of the moon floating in space, which is the intent, but also shows some surface detail.   For guests, I would filter down the brightness with an 82A  and a Contrast Booster, ND25 or variable polarizer.  I've also had to go to an ND13 at times, depending on the guests.

 

I'd put the tracking SCT on the moon at higher magnification to see the crater details. Filtered again.

 

I'd put the DOB on a brighter open cluster away from the moon.  Too bad Pleiades is next to the moon at that time.   NGC 457 can be fun with kids as they try to see the Owl.  NGC 7789 Caroline's Rose or NGC884 Double Cluster should show OK.

 

Have fun.

 

Gary  


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#13 1983cowboy

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Posted 06 November 2021 - 09:28 AM

Thanks so much for all the ideas everyone!

I'll brief the teachers about aiming for those Friday nights in the neighborhood of a waxing gibbous phase or smaller (first quarter would be great if we could catch the lunar X!). 

But in the meantime for this upcoming session, I think you all have given some great options!


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#14 Jim4321

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Posted 06 November 2021 - 10:36 AM

Not addressing your immediate issue, but .... If you're in an astro club, or have one in your area, get them involved. Pre-Covid, the Asheville club did a pretty good amount of outreach with schools.  We did both night and solar observing.  For solar, we used members' equipment that had proper filters as well as a club-bought pretty pricey H-a scope and a cheap but effective Sun Spotter.  

 

Solar was for whole classes, usually (I think) middle schoolers as a part of their science curriculum. Night sessions were voluntary attendance.  For solar, we had a brief 'lesson' on relative sizes, with the sun a basketball and Earth a pea (glued to a thread and ribbon for ease of handling).  I think there are some pix in the gallery at the club website, http://www.astroasheville.org.  The gallery link is near the bottom of the "Who We Are" page.

 

Jim H.


Edited by Jim4321, 06 November 2021 - 10:44 AM.


#15 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 06 November 2021 - 12:37 PM

NO WAY I would do solar for a school group.  Even if everything is properly filtered, and closely supervised, there is the possibility of a frivolous claim that will cause huge hassle.  Be careful. 


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#16 Napp

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Posted 06 November 2021 - 06:23 PM

NO WAY I would do solar for a school group.  Even if everything is properly filtered, and closely supervised, there is the possibility of a frivolous claim that will cause huge hassle.  Be careful. 

I’ve done solar for several large groups - hundreds of students at each.  These were large regional science fair events.  Several of us manned them.  I dual mounted a 60mm Coronado SolarMax II and an 80mm refractor with white light solar filter.  No problems at the events.  We carefully controlled the line not allowing a group to congregate too closely around the scopes.   The kids from elementary to high school really seemed to enjoy seeing the sun.  It does help to have a helper organize the line.


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#17 maroubra_boy

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Posted 06 November 2021 - 07:44 PM

I too have conducted solar viewing, at high schools and primary (elementary).  One high school event was for the transit of Venus!  As Mike said, you need to be careful and help from others (school staff) at crowd control is essential.  A preliminary talk given by a teacher or (amateur) astronomer to explain what is going on and laying out the house rules is a must.  Solar viewing is something few people get to do, much fewer than looking through a scope at night.


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#18 CltFlyboy

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Posted 07 November 2021 - 09:07 AM

Solar projection would be perfect for this - and simple with just a white board (gator board etc) and an easel. That way you could show a HUGE image to a larger group of people without the risk of anyone getting near the eyepiece.


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#19 Dragon Man

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Posted 08 November 2021 - 09:12 AM

One thing I like to do with visitors during Full Moon is point them at M42. Yes, I know, they won't see it lol.gif   but ask them how many stars they can see grouped very closely together (in what we call the Trapezium).

 

Many will say 4, but those with good observational skills may say 5 or 6.

It can be a fun challenge as 4 of the 8 stars in the Trapezium are Variables, and the 4 variable stars are at their brightest at different times. Many years ago I managed to image all 8 while the 4 variables were all at their brightest on the night I imaged it!!! Apparently very rare timing.

 

Another thing I show on Full Moon is Carbon Stars.

We have some beautifully deep red carbon stars in the Southern Hemisphere (DY Crucis, DU Crucis, etc), but in the Northern Hemisphere showing them R Leporis in Lepus would be your best bet right after showing them white and bluish white stars. Also U Cygni sits right next to a hot white star.

There's plenty more. This will show them the vastly different colours of stars. 

 

Happy Hunting waytogo.gif


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#20 Paul Sweeney

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Posted 08 November 2021 - 01:58 PM

There are many targets on bright nights. Most bright non-galaxy items will be visible. They just won't be as obvious as under dark skies. Doubles are good. Carbon stars are also good. Most are very obvious, even in a bright sky. Planetary nebula, globulars and open star clusters also work. M42 will work, but you will only see the brightest areas.

Then there's the moon itself. At full moon you can see the rays best. They often get ignored, but now you can see them in all their glory. You can also try to pick out mountains projecting up from the edge of the disk.

Sky and Telescope once published a list of things to observe in a bright sky:
https://skyandtelesc...polluted-skies/

Edited by Paul Sweeney, 08 November 2021 - 02:01 PM.


#21 Rickycardo

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Posted 08 November 2021 - 02:33 PM

I believe the 19th is a partial lunar eclipse for much of North America. Perhaps you can tie that information in and discuss the Moon phases and eclipses.


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#22 CltFlyboy

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Posted 08 November 2021 - 02:50 PM

Indeed we have an excellent partial eclipse in the wee hours of the 19th, with only a very small sliver of moon not in the eclipse. It would be something for them to see for sure - I agree that the kids should get some info on this!



#23 astrohamp

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Posted 23 November 2021 - 09:56 AM

So 'cowboy,  how did the session go?

Any comments/thoughts to those of us also trying to reach folks and share the skies?



#24 DSOGabe

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Posted 24 November 2021 - 12:06 PM

Thanks so much for all the ideas everyone!

I'll brief the teachers about aiming for those Friday nights in the neighborhood of a waxing gibbous phase or smaller (first quarter would be great if we could catch the lunar X!). 

But in the meantime for this upcoming session, I think you all have given some great options!

I would recommend trying for later on when the moon is waning. It rises later so you can enjoy dark skies for the earlier part of the outreach and use it as the closing "main event" of the evening. 



#25 edwincjones

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Posted 25 November 2021 - 06:26 AM

NO WAY I would do solar for a school group.  Even if everything is properly filtered, and closely supervised, there is the possibility of a frivolous claim that will cause huge hassle.  Be careful. 

I have done it with a scout group -once, the kids loved it;

but I agree with John it was poor judgement by me.

 

The Moon may be boring with us, but kids are really wowed,

much more in my experience than those "little things" up there.

 

edj


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