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What Is The Strangest Thing Someone Did/Tried To Do To Your Telescope At An Public Astronomy Outreach Event?

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#76 Stevegeo

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Posted 10 November 2023 - 06:08 PM

Bryce Canyon National park UT a few yrs ago,with my C8 in tow walking with my first scope buggy to their star party put on by the rangers,we stopped to get by the crowd of campers and set up.
The ranger, a young guy in his 20s and another in his 40s were explaining the night sky , now this was about 7 pm still somewhat lite/ twilight.. we watched two people walk by both reflectors an 8 in and i think a 10 inch both dobs..
They calmly walked by and when nobody but us were watching tossed candy wrapper / trash in each! And walked away laughing..
The rangers totally unaware , we were beside ourselves ...
The talking over , i went up to both, introduced myself, explained that i brought a C8 to share and told them what happened.
One got on the radio, a few minutes later, both perps were kicked out of the park.we heard later.
The rangers then spent another few minutes dumping the trash out/ checking the optics.
Meanwhile the line to my C8 got very long very quick .. we had a great time that nite ..
Its amazing how inconsiderate one or two can spoil a great time for everyone .
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#77 No N in collimation

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Posted 11 November 2023 - 11:43 AM

I don't have any good stories, but last night showing Saturn, a woman walked up, looked in the eyepiece, and started shouting "What?! What?!" Now that's a reaction. 

 

 

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#78 No N in collimation

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Posted 11 November 2023 - 11:47 AM

If I'm showing Saturn, I set out my Saturn globe. What happened next was to be expected: A three-year-old kid decided he liked it too and tried to make off with it. 

 

 

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#79 triplemon

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Posted 15 November 2023 - 06:15 PM

lol.gif lol.gif lol.gif

Why do people feel the compulsion to touch stuff that really they shouldn't touch?? 

Large public daytime astronomy event at the museum. Spotting Venus with the naked eye in the daytime sky.

 

I had an empty cardboard tube on an rather tall tripod, tediously aligned at Venus. Each group got an introduction first what this "fancy" setup is for: So you know where to look (the sky is big !!!) and to help with keeping your eyes focussed and steady. That is why you stand several feet away from the tube and move your head until you can peer straight through that tube. Bingo !

One after another step forward, kneel, tiptoe and contort until each has, audibly, sucess. Mom hovering closely over the kid: Look there - its there right above the hole. Kid: Mom, can't you see - its right inside the hole !!! Two clearly confirmed sightings plus a lesson in parental parallax. Priceless.

While this is ongoing, one guy that attentively listened before walks up to the side of the contraption to have a close look. Sticks his finger in. Yep, I was right, nothing but air in there. No foul tricks.
 

Then, under protest of the folk still trying to find Venus __the intended way__, he grabs the tripod, turns the tube sideways. So he can more easily look through it from where he is standing, i.e. almost at an right angle from where everybody else (and the tube) was pointed before. The rest of the group plus me - flabbergasted.

And he tries for a good while, panning the tube around, mimicing whatever movements the other folks did before, all the while looking in entirely different directions and with his head right at the tube. And while a dozen folks or more, all lined up in a 20 foot circle around the tripod look on. Its just him and the cardboard tube, all by himself in his universe.

Until he declares: No, I should not fool folks at an event like this, there are lots of kids here after all. There is nothing to see there.


Edited by triplemon, 16 November 2023 - 12:07 AM.

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#80 maroubra_boy

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Posted 15 November 2023 - 07:12 PM

Goodness me!  That one has left me gobsmacked!

 

Yep, sounds like we have a prime candidate for a Darwin Award here folks! applause.gif

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Edited by maroubra_boy, 15 November 2023 - 07:13 PM.

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#81 Couder

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Posted 15 November 2023 - 07:26 PM

Our local shopping mall asked our group to set up telescopes inside, figuring it would increase sales. I set up my 10" F7 Cave (quite a feat carrying all that up the stairs) and taped a cutout of Saturn on a shop window across the mall. One guy was smoking and kept blowing smoke inside the tube, (this was before the no smoking indoors laws) and got really offended when I asked him not to. Another guy looked through the eyepiece at Saturn, thought it was the real thing.


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#82 Freezout

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Posted 16 November 2023 - 04:52 AM

 Another guy looked through the eyepiece at Saturn, thought it was the real thing.

It's the opposite story of the usual one.

So all these people believing that Saturn is fake when we show it for real, it's because of you...


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#83 John the Space Traveler

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 03:20 AM

At Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff, a retiring faculty member spent their own money buying the astronomy department a Planewave telescope (20" IIRC) on a Software Bisque robotic mount.  Sometime later on a public viewing night a student leaned over the telescope to peak while holding slice of pizza in their hand.  They DROPPED IT ON THE MIRROR, leaving a big sauce stain somewhere near the edge!

 

To make matters worse, in the years since, the mirror has NEVER been cleaned of sauce or dust.  The dust film actually limits the usable magnitude of the scope and severely washes out anything but the brightest DSOs.

I fault the NAU faculty more than a clueless student for not appreciating the generosity of that very expensive gift.  The acid in the sauce has probably damaged the mirror coating from sitting there for years, when they could have removed the mirror and given it a proper cleaning shortly after the pizza was dropped.


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#84 wrvond

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Posted 18 February 2024 - 12:03 PM

At Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff, a retiring faculty member spent their own money buying the astronomy department a Planewave telescope (20" IIRC) on a Software Bisque robotic mount.  Sometime later on a public viewing night a student leaned over the telescope to peak while holding slice of pizza in their hand.  They DROPPED IT ON THE MIRROR, leaving a big sauce stain somewhere near the edge!

 

To make matters worse, in the years since, the mirror has NEVER been cleaned of sauce or dust.  The dust film actually limits the usable magnitude of the scope and severely washes out anything but the brightest DSOs.

I fault the NAU faculty more than a clueless student for not appreciating the generosity of that very expensive gift.  The acid in the sauce has probably damaged the mirror coating from sitting there for years, when they could have removed the mirror and given it a proper cleaning shortly after the pizza was dropped.

Schools are the worst!

 

We, the unknowing, led by the uncaring...

 

graduate.sml.gif


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#85 Astroman007

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Posted 19 February 2024 - 10:53 AM

At Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff, a retiring faculty member spent their own money buying the astronomy department a Planewave telescope (20" IIRC) on a Software Bisque robotic mount.  Sometime later on a public viewing night a student leaned over the telescope to peak while holding slice of pizza in their hand.  They DROPPED IT ON THE MIRROR, leaving a big sauce stain somewhere near the edge!

 

To make matters worse, in the years since, the mirror has NEVER been cleaned of sauce or dust.  The dust film actually limits the usable magnitude of the scope and severely washes out anything but the brightest DSOs.

I fault the NAU faculty more than a clueless student for not appreciating the generosity of that very expensive gift.  The acid in the sauce has probably damaged the mirror coating from sitting there for years, when they could have removed the mirror and given it a proper cleaning shortly after the pizza was dropped.

Wow. That's unbelievable. Gifting a Planewave to a tribe of gorillas would go over hardly worse.


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#86 John the Space Traveler

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Posted 19 February 2024 - 04:22 PM

Wow. That's unbelievable. Gifting a Planewave to a tribe of gorillas would go over hardly worse.

I haven't been there in a couple of years so I hope it has been remedied in that time. unsure.png



#87 maroubra_boy

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Posted 19 February 2024 - 06:39 PM

Wow. That's unbelievable. Gifting a Planewave to a tribe of gorillas would go over hardly worse.

I disagree with the sentiment.

 

A school is not a tribe of gorillas.  In a situation like this they are people who are dazzled by the appeal of a swish looking scope and gear, but they failed to understand the responsibility and dedication, even the cost, that such equipment needs in order for it to be maintained and used.  There are very few science teachers who would share the same level of keen interest in astro as we do here, and most science teachers wouldn't know the first thing about how to use such an instrument.  The school's executive body would not know any of this and they would forget to ask their staff.  So they jump at the chance of such an instrument, totally seduced by the illusion of the PR opportunity this provides.  And the scope and associated equipment languishes in disuse and misuse.

 

You don't gift a scope to a school and assume that it will be used.  The problem that was described above started with the person who gifted them the gear but did not understand to ask if the school had someone who either understood this stuff or was prepared to learn.  I can tell you that this is not something that you push yourself to learn if you do not have a near maniacal fascination and dedication to this.

 

Most high schools would have a telescope.  Most schools would have no one in their staff who would know the first thing about using a scope nor of the night sky, and this is whole of the staff body, not just the science staff.  So most scopes never see star light.  Of all the schools I have had anything to do with I have only encountered one with a staff member with a keen interest in astro and they were a mathematics teacher, not a science teacher.  And in the several years I knew this teacher at this school, never once did a single science teacher ever attend one of the outreach evenings he conducted.  I don't blame the science staff either in any way.


Edited by maroubra_boy, 19 February 2024 - 06:39 PM.

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#88 John the Space Traveler

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Posted 20 February 2024 - 01:19 AM

I disagree with the sentiment.

 

A school is not a tribe of gorillas.  In a situation like this they are people who are dazzled by the appeal of a swish looking scope and gear, but they failed to understand the responsibility and dedication, even the cost, that such equipment needs in order for it to be maintained and used.  There are very few science teachers who would share the same level of keen interest in astro as we do here, and most science teachers wouldn't know the first thing about how to use such an instrument.  The school's executive body would not know any of this and they would forget to ask their staff.  So they jump at the chance of such an instrument, totally seduced by the illusion of the PR opportunity this provides.  And the scope and associated equipment languishes in disuse and misuse.

 

You don't gift a scope to a school and assume that it will be used.  The problem that was described above started with the person who gifted them the gear but did not understand to ask if the school had someone who either understood this stuff or was prepared to learn.  I can tell you that this is not something that you push yourself to learn if you do not have a near maniacal fascination and dedication to this.

 

Most high schools would have a telescope.  Most schools would have no one in their staff who would know the first thing about using a scope nor of the night sky, and this is whole of the staff body, not just the science staff.  So most scopes never see star light.  Of all the schools I have had anything to do with I have only encountered one with a staff member with a keen interest in astro and they were a mathematics teacher, not a science teacher.  And in the several years I knew this teacher at this school, never once did a single science teacher ever attend one of the outreach evenings he conducted.  I don't blame the science staff either in any way.

As NAU alumni, please allow me to give a little context to the astronomy department there.  I don't want to claim to be an expert here so I'll only be as specific as my knowledge allows.  Keep in mind I left a couple of years ago, so I don't have any current info.

 

NAU is a 4 year university and public research institution.  Situated in Flagstaff, some of its faculty are affiliated with Lowell Observatory (across town), as well as other institutions around the country and the globe.  Some of the government agencies it works with are NASA and the USGS.  Some areas in which the university is active is exoplanets, Kuiper Belt objects, and Mars studies.  During Apollo they assisted with the geology training of the astronauts, who even studied the Moon through the university's telescope that the Planewave replaced.  One of the professors is (or recently was) a PI on one of the current Mars rovers, and another had discovered the two most distant solar system objects.  Two notable people in the fields of astronomy and planetary science that were affiliated with the university are Clyde Tombaugh and Eugene Shoemaker.

My point?  The faculty is smart, well educated, and accomplished in their fields.  They have been around world class telescopes and know how to get help on things outside of their normal experiences.  But I do not consider them gorillas.  However, I do think think of them as unappreciative.  Here is why.

 

The Planewave telescope is not being used by untrained or partially trained science teachers.  It's being used by professors of astrophysics and astronomy who teach both upper and lower division astro students.  They serve as advisors to doctoral students.  They are also trained on how to use the Planewave telescope.  It was gifted to the university by a retiring astrophysics professor who knew about the quality of the instrument.  I know from personal conversations with faculty and student operators of the scope that they know how to properly operate it.  Caring for the mirror is also part of the documentation that came with the OTA, and they could also contact Planewave directly for assistance.  So they can't claim to be clueless.

 

During a semester when the telescope is being used for teaching, I wouldn't expect the mirror to be removed and sent to Planewave for cleaning (assuming staff can't do it themselves), thus putting the scope out of commission for a decent chunk of the semester.  But I would think they could use winter, spring or summer breaks to accomplish that.  They could also consult the campus engineering department (particularly any optical engineers), or ask colleagues at Lowell who maintain their telescopes, including the 4 m Lowell Discovery Telescope, which is (was?) the fifth largest telescope in the continental United States.  They have a brain trust that they can turn to.

 

It's my understanding that major observatories have their mirrors cleaned about once per year.  I don't see why a four-year university like NAU, with their high tuition fees and 200 million dollar endowment, can't afford to get the mirror on their main campus scope cleaned every 4 or 5 years.  Flagstaff is the world's first dark-sky city.  It's a shame to waste it on a dirty mirror.


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#89 HagglePig420

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 04:17 PM

I love doing outreach.. I have fun sharing the hobby with other people. The vast majority of people are very respectful and grateful for the experience. Though I have had some less than positive experiences.. kids touching eyepiece glass, pulling on the diagonal etc... normally nothing too serious, but one time I was out by myself with a couple scopes set up. Kids pulled into the lot in a few cars and were drinking and smoking weed and whatnot. I heard one of them excitedly say something about a telescope and like 5 or 6 kids came over and few girls and a few guys, all seemed pretty stoned and drunk and were obviously partying..so I show them some stuff in my c8, and a Saturn in my one refractor, the girls and the one kid were pretty pumped to see Jupiter and Saturn's Rings and asked some questions, how much a decent scope was, etc.. the other kids weren't very interested and hung back.. eventually they round their friends up and they all leave.. It wasnt until I was leaving and packing up that I realized one of those kids either dropped or flicked a cigarette butt into the dew shield of my c8.. luckily it only made a mark on the dew shield and ring around the corrector and didn't damage the glass or coatings themselves.. but I was really **** and just upset.. what kind of person would do something like that.. I'm much more vigilant with people around my scopes now
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#90 maroubra_boy

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Posted 22 February 2024 - 05:25 PM

That is such a distressing thing to read!!!  I am stunned at the contempt & disrespect that person demonstrated.  Nothing short of a sociopath.  The sad part about it is moron would be outraged if anyone did something like this to their pride and joy, but doesn't give a stuff about anyone else.

 

Stuff like this is disheartening.  Makes a lot of people who would like to do share their passion for astro with other people but are a little hesitant, just turn away.


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#91 Astroman007

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Posted 26 February 2024 - 06:30 PM

I love doing outreach.. I have fun sharing the hobby with other people. The vast majority of people are very respectful and grateful for the experience. Though I have had some less than positive experiences.. kids touching eyepiece glass, pulling on the diagonal etc... normally nothing too serious, but one time I was out by myself with a couple scopes set up. Kids pulled into the lot in a few cars and were drinking and smoking weed and whatnot. I heard one of them excitedly say something about a telescope and like 5 or 6 kids came over and few girls and a few guys, all seemed pretty stoned and drunk and were obviously partying..so I show them some stuff in my c8, and a Saturn in my one refractor, the girls and the one kid were pretty pumped to see Jupiter and Saturn's Rings and asked some questions, how much a decent scope was, etc.. the other kids weren't very interested and hung back.. eventually they round their friends up and they all leave.. It wasnt until I was leaving and packing up that I realized one of those kids either dropped or flicked a cigarette butt into the dew shield of my c8.. luckily it only made a mark on the dew shield and ring around the corrector and didn't damage the glass or coatings themselves.. but I was really **** and just upset.. what kind of person would do something like that.. I'm much more vigilant with people around my scopes now

Age range, chosen pursuits, daft and careless behavior...sounds like the kids in my area. roflmao.gif

 

I only share my scopes with a select few people I know and trust. I don't need to deal with unvetted strangers in my off time. Sorry that happened to you. Hopefully it doesn't put you off outreach altogether.


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#92 Forward Scatter

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Posted 03 March 2024 - 12:57 PM

Late winter night a couple of years back at an impromptu night of imaging at a nearby state park, a dude camping the the park's campground came by interested in what we were doing. After a while, he started to make offensive bigoted tirades regarding people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. When told we do not want to hear his hate and his comments we found offensive, he took a indignant stance and claimed we were impinging on his "free speech".  Assuming most yahoos of his ilk are probably armed in some manner and want to get a rise out of others, we packed up our gear quickly and exited the park. 


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#93 HagglePig420

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Posted 06 March 2024 - 09:37 PM

That is such a distressing thing to read!!! I am stunned at the contempt & disrespect that person demonstrated. Nothing short of a sociopath. The sad part about it is moron would be outraged if anyone did something like this to their pride and joy, but doesn't give a stuff about anyone else.

Stuff like this is disheartening. Makes a lot of people who would like to do share their passion for astro with other people but are a little hesitant, just turn away.


That was the only real negative experience I had out of hundreds of people who have looked through my scopes. Im usually delighted to share the view with passers by. That night the friendly kids were sincerely excited and were happy to look through the scopes. But the others seemed a little sketchy... I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, that it was an accident and they were just too scared or embarrassed to say anything... I really can't imagine why someone would do that purposefully, especially with the owner of the scope present. I try not to attribute malice what you can to stupidity lol
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#94 Phil Cowell

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Posted 09 March 2024 - 03:09 AM

Welcome to the post truth, anti science society. There are more than a few nuts out there.

 

To add my own tale of woe, I have actually had one person become aggressive towards me with outreach in some 40 years that I've been sharing my scopes with people.  I showed Saturn to a neighbour through my 5" SCT - first problem being that an SCT does not look like a telescope to most people and from this they were convinced that there was "a photo in that thing!".  They became very agitated and it took some very quick thinking on my part to make them calm down - heck I had set up my scope in my front yard to look at Saturn and welcomed any neighbours who showed curiosity at what I was doing.  Some people are only too quick to reckon you are either trying to con them into something or make a fool of them, such is their ignorance and their suspicion of others sigh2.gif

 

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#95 SuiGeneris

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Posted 11 March 2024 - 10:58 AM

Man, a lot of bad experiences here. I have a more fun outreach story. Our local town library holds a few stargazing evenings each year. Nothing very formal, just a librarian who knows constellations + a table of space books + an open invite for anyone to bring a scope out for kids to look through. I decided to take my scope to this fall's event, but my son and wife stayed home. About an hour into the evening I was aligning the scope onto a new target (apparently kids get tired of Jupiter after a while) when someone bit my ear. I jerked up so hard that I nearly knocked over the scope, and the back of my head gave the ear-biter a bit of a bloody nose.

 

Turns out my son decided he wanted to come afterall, so my wife drove him out. She thought spooking me would be good for a laugh. 


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#96 maroubra_boy

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Posted 11 March 2024 - 04:02 PM

rofl2.gif roflmao.gif

 

Oh, mate, what a scream! lol.gif

 

I did have one bloody experience too for that matter, self inflicted though.  I was running late to an outreach event at a local high school.  Viewing had started by the time I arrived and in the rush to set up I lost balance and one of the tynes of the fork mounted C9.25 cracked me on the brow.  It stung a bit but I continued to set up in the dark with my red light.  After packing a couple of us went to the local McDonalds for a bite to eat and it was the first time since the rush to set up that my face was fully illuminated.  I stepped up to the counter and the poor kid taking my order jumped back in horror when she looked at my face - a trickle of blood had run down my entire face from the cracked brow, blood that I had also smeared across my face at some point during the night!

 

This experience did teach me something very important though, and something I have since used every time a buy a scope - if it is particularly big, how safe will it be to take down at 3am after a long and hard day preceding it?  If I lost balance with such a heavy fork mounted scope when I pretty much had all my strength and wits, what would happen at 3am when fatigue will have very much set in?  Not surprisingly I call it "the 3am rule".  I used this rule to decide between the 9" Santel Mak I have and a stunning 10" Deluxe Intes Mak.  I used both scopes for two weeks to decide which one to keep.  Both weighed pretty much the same.  The difference came in the girth of each scope.  The 10" was that little bit larger and in those two weeks it proved to be that little bit less easy to handle when I was packing it away in the wee hours of the morning.  So while I would have preferred to have kept the larger aperture, I had to put safety first as I knew one day that bulkier scope would jump up and bite me when I least expect it.  

 

Oh, and that fork mounted C9.25, that experience happened just a couple of days after I bought it.  I sold it on that same week.  I realised that it was a poor choice of scope to feel safe with especially as I had to do a big lift to place it on its wedge to use it.

 

When people ask help about choosing a large scope, Cassegrain, Newt, whatever, I always mention the 3am rule as it is something few people every consider.  And to reinforce it I mention how at one star party an old timer for some reason decided to take down his 10" fork mounted SCT at 2am after a long day.  There was an almighty crash of smashing glass that echoed across the valley frown.gif


Edited by maroubra_boy, 11 March 2024 - 04:04 PM.

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#97 David Knisely

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Posted 11 March 2024 - 06:13 PM

During outreach, about the only thing I had people do when at my scope was call it a "microscope".  Sometimes with my NexStar 9.25 inch SCT, the kids try to look through the finderscope instead of the scope's actual eyepiece, but that is quickly remedied.  I never have much trouble lifting my 9.25 onto the tripod, as I installed the nice Starzona "landing pad" on top to hold it and to get the center pin lined up.  A few times, I have even forgotten to put in the bolts until later, as once rotated into its bolt slots, the landing pad holds the scope nicely in the altazimuth mode.  With the hand holds on the fork, I can get the scope off of the tripod without risking or causing personal injury even at 3 a.m., although for me, it was closer to 4:15 a.m., as we were doing an all-nighter at the Nebraska Star Party.  I wouldn't think of putting the scope on my wedge for pubic outreach, as that can put the eyepiece in some rather low or slightly awkward locations.  However, at Hyde Observatory, we have all three of our fork-mounted SCTs on wedges, as we wanted longer-exposure imaging capability.  Instead, we put in electrically-powered telescoping piers on the 9.25 and 11 inch CPCs so each scope could be raised and lowered to suit our visitors' "height" needs.  Clear skies to you. 

 

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Edited by David Knisely, 12 March 2024 - 02:26 AM.

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#98 Astroman007

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Posted 15 March 2024 - 03:30 PM

Late winter night a couple of years back at an impromptu night of imaging at a nearby state park, a dude camping the the park's campground came by interested in what we were doing. After a while, he started to make offensive bigoted tirades regarding people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. When told we do not want to hear his hate and his comments we found offensive, he took a indignant stance and claimed we were impinging on his "free speech".  Assuming most yahoos of his ilk are probably armed in some manner and want to get a rise out of others, we packed up our gear quickly and exited the park. 

I understand your decision, but I think that's exactly the reaction he was going for. You had every bit as much a right to be there as anyone else.


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#99 Forward Scatter

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Posted 16 March 2024 - 10:37 AM

I understand your decision, but I think that's exactly the reaction he was going for. You had every bit as much a right to be there as anyone else.

I agree wholeheartedly, Martin. But we have a a society here in this country that has elevated "owning" someone or some other group to a sacred right enshrined in the Constitution, with hopes of eliciting a response that justifies these kooks claiming "self defense" and "free speech". That night's imaging time was not worth neither the risk nor the feelings of unease. The PDX area had the 2017 Max Train Attack and there have been several, although less violent, similar events here since.


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#100 Bob Campbell

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Posted 16 March 2024 - 01:07 PM

I agree wholeheartedly, Martin. But we have a a society here in this country that has elevated "owning" someone or some other group to a sacred right enshrined in the Constitution, with hopes of eliciting a response that justifies these kooks claiming "self defense" and "free speech". That night's imaging time was not worth neither the risk nor the feelings of unease. The PDX area had the 2017 Max Train Attack and there have been several, although less violent, similar events here since.

wow. I dug deeper into the Jeremy Joseph Christian (train attacker) affair, and it gives a chilling reminder of what is possible.

 

You did exactly right; the precursor you described looked like it might parallel what happened there.

 

Bob


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