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What's most asked for: wide FOV or planets and galaxies?

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#1 Lucullus

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Posted 13 August 2023 - 05:49 PM

Hi there,

 

When doing outreach to people relatively new to astronomy, let alone techniques and instruments, what do they ask for the most when looking through your telescope concerning objects they want to look at? Do they want to drown in stars and just be mesmerized, or do they want to look at Moon craters, planets, and galaxies? Sure, it depends on what telescope you use for outreach, so if you don't mind, please shortly describe your outreach telescope and what your guests ask for. Thank you in advance.

The reason for asking is that I'd like to build a small Newton for a friend and would like to tailor the focal ratio to the objects people mostly ask for during outreach activities.



#2 havasman

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Posted 13 August 2023 - 06:17 PM

Guest observers at outreach events very, very rarely have any idea what they're going to see much less have enough knowledge about what's available in the overhead sky to be able to request an observation. It is our responsibility and pleasure to show them easily seen objects we know they'll find interesting and beautiful. This is best accomplished by

  1. showing them the moon - everyone has seen it and most have never seen it via telescope
  2. showing them Saturn and/or Jupiter - they are often shocked to see these 2 planets
  3. showing interesting colored and/or multiple stars and talking about their interesting characteristics (Scattered clouds and low turnout had us shutting down an event set up in a high school stadium parking lot when a Hispanic family bicycled up for an view. The boy @ 10 years old was especially disappointed and then Aldebaran popped through a hole down low toward the horizon so I put the tube back in the base and showed him the "angry red eye of Taurus the Bull" and his face lit up. It's all I remember about the night.)
  4. showing them bright, easily seen DSO's about which we are prepared to talk and answer questions

I have never used widefield telescopic views in an outreach presentation. If there are items such as the Summer triangle or big dipper or Orion's belt or Gemini's twins in the sky, naked eye talks can be effective for larger groups. If the site is dark, outlining the constellations with a GLP can work too.

 

Some outreach events are built around specific observations like lunar or solar eclipses or the Japanese moon festival so those nights can be mostly single purpose events.

 

I had one Japanese family request, while waiting for a lunar eclipse to begin, to see the Subaru cluster. And it was my pleasure to show them M45, with which they were very impressed. It had been a cultural touchstone for them all their lives and they had never seen it via telescope. I do not remember another request.

 

I had 2 favorite instruments for outreach back when I ran the club's outreach program: #1 with a bullet was an XT10i with its excellent flexibility and capability and the AWB OneSky because it was a blast to see the look on folks' faces when I'd answer truthfully, "$200." How much did that scope cost was always the most asked Q.


Edited by havasman, 13 August 2023 - 06:35 PM.

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#3 J A VOLK

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Posted 13 August 2023 - 06:22 PM

I am a docent at Lowell Observatory, I often operate one of the 7 telescopes for public observing (5 visual).  Hands down, people ask most to see the planets.  We of course have a scope(s) on the brighter planets that are in the sky during observing hours (Venus, Mars, Jupiter & Saturn).  Fortunately, we have enough scopes to show a variety of object types, bright globulars are popular.  People ask to see Pluto, as it was discovered there.  We politely explain that it only resembles a very faint star, in even a fairly large telescope, which is why it took decades to discover.  I have a 10" f/5 Dob. (with a very good mirror) I use for personal outreach, which is good for a wide variety of objects, and show the planets well, and puts the eyepiece in a convenient location.


Edited by J A VOLK, 13 August 2023 - 08:22 PM.

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#4 ShaulaB

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Posted 13 August 2023 - 06:57 PM

After decades of outreach, here are some thoughts:

 

Most people do not request objects. Other than the Moon, 95% of the public has no idea what else in in the sky on a given night. An 8 inch f-6 is a good versatile scope for outreach.

 

  • The Moon is great in any aperture instrument, even big binoculars. A lunar filter is necessary when over 3 days old. Strangely, many people prefer seeing the entire Moon in the eyepiece rather than one section greatly magnified. For the Moon then, I use 2 scopes on it, high and low magnification. A zoom eyepiece helps.
  • Saturn is always a crowd pleaser, so magnification above 125x is best. An 8 inch or larger aperture gives good resolution. Jupiter is also popular, especially in a wide enough field to show the Galilean Moons. People need to be told that the Great Red Spot is not always visible.
  • Mars is interesting a few months before and a few months after opposition. Magnify the h3ck out of it.
  • Venus and Mercury show phases, so magnifying them is worthwhile.
  • People are impressed with globular clusters in larger aperture scopes that resolve stars easily, at magnifications over 100x.
  • Open star clusters, with their bright bluish members, impress the public. Lower magnifications are ok.
  • Colorful double stars interest the public.

I use both a 4.5 inch StarBlast mini-Dob and a C14 for outreach. The inexperienced observers need deep sky objects to be as bright as possible in the eyepiece, which can mean lower magnification. M1 looks obvious to me in a large aperture scope, but some folks can't see it at all.

 

Gaaxies? Even with a large aperture Newtonian, galaxies will only look like gray patches to most people. The Sombrero shows an interesting shape at higher magnification. It's fun to get both M81 and M82 in the same eyepiece field of view, but that requires low magnification.


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#5 wolf man

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Posted 13 August 2023 - 07:26 PM

   A 6" F8 or an 8" F6 to F8 would work well for outreach. I agree with those who have posted above: the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn and bright clusters and nebulae are real crowd pleasers at our outreach events. While a good solid scope is a must (to deal with humans who go bump in the night), it is also important to be able to explain these objects in a way that is engaging and connects with your audience. It sounds like your friend has got this part covered. The scopes mentioned above can show everything from the double cluster or Orion nebula to high magnification views of the Moon and planets. Good luck!


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#6 TOMDEY

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Posted 13 August 2023 - 08:11 PM

Every now and then... someone will be looking at the moon and then ask to see "The Horse Head Nebula". No doubt they have admired a nice picture of it taken with one of the great telescopes. If it's summertime (northern hemisphere) I can say, "That's a Winter Nebula; would you like to see the Dumbbell Nebula instead?" If it's wintertime, I say, "Lets point in that direction and look at the Orion Nebula!"    Tom


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#7 maroubra_boy

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Posted 13 August 2023 - 11:15 PM

No matter what it is that is being shown, ease of use of an eyepiece for NOVICE eyes is paramount for me.  What is shown is totally dependant on the time of year, so it is of no consequence and immaterial really.  Their requests will be tempered by what is up on the night, and that is it and as far as it goes.  Ease of use/comfort of use of the guest is something that is very little considered.

 

There are eyepieces that are very sensitive to eye/head placement, and some of these are "Brand label", they are actually not good for novices and the AFOV is of no help.  You really want a very forgiving eyepiece, but also not like looking into a drainpipe.  Too tight in eye relief is just as difficult as too long.  A peephole eye lens is a poor option too.  Sometimes it is the less glamourous cheaper eyepieces that offer a more comfortable, easy experience for novices.  And you also need to think about regular cleaning of the eyepieces so do you really want to use your topshelf glass for a crowd of 100 people?

 

I have three eyepieces that I use for outreach.  They are inexpensive but very easy for novice eyes and do a great job in refractors, SCT's and Maks and still a good job in Newts (I wouldn't use them in an f/4 Newt, but fine for other f/ratios).  As it happens, all three are 68° AFOV, but only two are of the same brand, but all three are very easy for novices to use.

 

Showing some minor aberrations is not a problem.  You can get all precious about a sharp edge to edge field of view, but is this really only for your or the guests as does it really add more to the experience of the novice.  But this is also a personal preference of the owner of the gear, and all power to you if you offer this to your guests :)

 

With contemporary eyepieces, if you are building a Newt especially geared towards outreach, look for a more forgiving f/ratio, like f/5 and slower.  This is to make the job easier on the eyepieces.  Of course you can drop a bomb of money on eyepieces, but you are still left with coma to correct for with a faster f/ratio.  You haven't mentioned the aperture of the scope you are building which can have a major impact on the design of the instrument.  With outreach I try to keep things simple of my guests and simple for myself so I can concentrate on the sky and not stuff around with technical stuff with the gear.

 

Alex.


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#8 Lucullus

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Posted 14 August 2023 - 05:34 AM

I will build a Newtonian with 4.5" primary mirror and probably f/5 or f/4.5 (to practice skills on going faster while remaining a pristine overall mirror shape for later larger primaries). I am simply wondering if I should add a 25mm or 10mm 1.25" eyepiece. Based on what people in outreach ask I'd buy one or the other, regardless if details in galaxies would be visible. Galaxies would only be fuzzies in a 4.5" anyway, but that's not the point if my friend is happy to be amazed by realising the distance travelled by the photons. So that's the actual question: do outreach guests more go for the unbelievable distances of the universe (target galaxy fuzzies, of which there will always be examples to look for in any season) or the Moon and planets. With the galaxies as more asked for targets, I'd buy the 25mm and with the Lunar and planetary targets I'd go for the 10mm eyepiece. Btw, when I write about guests asking, I don't have the tone of demanding in mind, if that's what you thought I meant.


Edited by Lucullus, 14 August 2023 - 09:53 AM.


#9 Sebastian_Sajaroff

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Posted 14 August 2023 - 08:24 AM

I conduct outreach from urban spots, so LP is a major player.

 

 

I usually show them :

 

The Moon and brightest available planets among Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Everyone loves them.

 

Stars with contrasting colors like Aldebaran vs Pollux vs Sirius, major success with kids.

Double stars like Castor, Albireo, Algieba or Regulus, kids love them too.

 

Some open clusters like M44, M45, M35, Double cluster in Perseus, etc. Most find them interesting, I ask people to find patterns among their stars.

 

Bright globular clusters like M3, M13, M2, M5. Here we enter the so-so territory. Some find them interesting, others not so much.

Planetary nebulae : M57, NGC 7009 and NGC 3242 are classics. I get kind of a mixed response, same as with globular clusters.

 

Galaxies : only M31.

Even so, public most usual response is meh...

I showed them M81-M82 once, and people thought it was a scam because they saw nothing (on a 12" !)

I insisted "look for a faint smudge"... after a couple of minutes "uh uh, yep, I see something dim there. Meh... What's next ?" 

 

Finally, we also conduct solar outreach. I'd say 90% people find it very interesting, they love to compare white light vs H-Alpha views.  


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#10 mdowns

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Posted 14 August 2023 - 04:36 PM

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#11 Daveatvt01

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Posted 14 August 2023 - 04:37 PM

Hi,

If you can only get one eyepiece, 25mm or 10mm, my vote would be for the 10mm. Beginners love the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn because they are interesting and visible naked eye (and so don’t require knowledge of star/constellation locations). I’d generally recommend a low power “finder eyepiece” to help a novice find an object they are looking for, but a 25mm eyepiece in a 114mm f4.5 scope only provides 20x mag, too low for planets. 10mm gets you up to about 50x, better for planets and the moon, and about one degree FOV to frame many objects better.

 

However, 50x is still pretty low for planets. If they show little to no detail at that mag I might change my vote to the 25mm. I can check a similar 114mm scope at 50x to see what planetary detail looks like at that magnification and report back. 
 

Sounds like a fun project and a fun gift for your friend. 
Good luck!


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#12 Lucullus

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Posted 14 August 2023 - 04:55 PM

Hi,

If you can only get one eyepiece, 25mm or 10mm, my vote would be for the 10mm. Beginners love the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn because they are interesting and visible naked eye (and so don’t require knowledge of star/constellation locations). I’d generally recommend a low power “finder eyepiece” to help a novice find an object they are looking for, but a 25mm eyepiece in a 114mm f4.5 scope only provides 20x mag, too low for planets. 10mm gets you up to about 50x, better for planets and the moon, and about one degree FOV to frame many objects better.

 

However, 50x is still pretty low for planets. If they show little to no detail at that mag I might change my vote to the 25mm. I can check a similar 114mm scope at 50x to see what planetary detail looks like at that magnification and report back. 
 

Sounds like a fun project and a fun gift for your friend. 
Good luck!

Thank you for your effort. If you don't mind, a few lines as report would be enlightening and very helpful, as I don't have access to such a "fast" small scope.
 



#13 maroubra_boy

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Posted 14 August 2023 - 05:48 PM

Oh, my.  Ok, I get it now.

 

Power to you, bro :)



#14 Daveatvt01

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Posted 14 August 2023 - 06:51 PM

Thank you for your effort. If you don't mind, a few lines as report would be enlightening and very helpful, as I don't have access to such a "fast" small scope.
 

No problem! It may take a while though, it is monsoon season here. 



#15 Lucullus

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Posted 15 August 2023 - 07:30 AM

No problem! It may take a while though, it is monsoon season here. 

Nah, no problem waytogo.gif . Building will also take some while :D
 



#16 Daveatvt01

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Posted 21 August 2023 - 11:05 PM

There was a little break in the clouds a few nights ago, and I tried to see what a similar scope would show on Saturn (Jupiter wasn't up yet). It was with an Astroscan, which is 105mm and f/4.2, so a little smaller and faster. Saturn's rings were not visible at all in the 25mm EP at 18x magnification. I do have some astigmatism so that may have played a role too. In the 10mm at 45x, Saturn was still pretty small, though it's rings were very distinct and I could discern where they went in front of the disc. Titan and Rhea were close by that night and visible. So I'd say Saturn is decent (though small) at close to 50x. 



#17 Lucullus

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Posted 22 August 2023 - 03:04 PM

There was a little break in the clouds a few nights ago, and I tried to see what a similar scope would show on Saturn (Jupiter wasn't up yet). It was with an Astroscan, which is 105mm and f/4.2, so a little smaller and faster. Saturn's rings were not visible at all in the 25mm EP at 18x magnification. I do have some astigmatism so that may have played a role too. In the 10mm at 45x, Saturn was still pretty small, though it's rings were very distinct and I could discern where they went in front of the disc. Titan and Rhea were close by that night and visible. So I'd say Saturn is decent (though small) at close to 50x. 

Many thanks for this enlightening small and precious report. I highly value your effort!
 



#18 mikemarotta

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Posted 22 August 2023 - 05:05 PM

I agree with havasman, ShaulaB, and Sebastian Sajaroff above that most people have no idea what to ask for. That is why they come to outreach events, to learn, to see, to enjoy. J A Polk's comments are also cogent, tempered by the fact that it takes a serious commitment in money and time to go to the Lowell Observatory in the first place. Anyone who goes there has an interest level deeper than casual curiosity, 

 

I let other club members bring the light buckets. Like havasman above, I have brought my AWB OneSky 130mm reflector on a Twilight 1 mount and I usually bring only 70mm refractors. The last time, I bought a 102mm refractor. It does not take much to open up the skies. Helping people learn how to look and see is part of the job at outreach. The other part is explaining what they are looking at. And for children and the Moon, asking them to use their words and tell you what they see is even better.

 

Also, in another topic forum and thread, someone mentioned being asked "What does this cost?" And being told in reply, "So, it's a rich man's game, then." At our last star party about 20 to 30 miles outside of Austin at Pedernales Falls State Park, most of the public seemed to me to be information systems people (very common here). However, most of the events that I attended in town at schools and libraries brought people of more modest means: sklilled trades, retail workers, etc., for whom $250 represents 10 pairs of tennis shoes for kids who will wear them out faster than they outgrow them. $250 plus plus plus for a hobby and I try to point to the cost of (American) football gear Texas being the land of Friday Night Lights, but I usually am talking to people whose kids play basketball and soccer. 

 

I agree with Marouba Boy above that eyepiece selection is important. I seldom have changed oculars at all during a night. I take a cue from Sue French's Celestial Sampler and show the sky at about 47X with a wide angle eyepiece. You can show M13 at 200X or you can show the Pleiades at 20X: the stars are pretty at any magnification. The added dimension comes from what you say about the things they are looking at.

 

Thanks,

Mike M.


Edited by mikemarotta, 22 August 2023 - 05:07 PM.

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#19 Lucullus

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Posted 24 August 2023 - 01:51 PM

Well, my friend is a physics PhD, but an astronomy novice concerning actual observing. So he's not the usual outreach guest. And, my telescope should not be a public one. Instead, all I want is to give him a self-made telescope with a first eyepiece to start with and explore for himself without oral explanations from myself. If he wishes, he can add other eyepieces. The first eyepiece should really just be ideal for those objects people at star parties are most amazed about. So, the above answers that magnifications highlighting planets and the Moon are the most joy-giving sights, with star glusters and fuzzy galaxies at the other end of the spectrum (of course, depending on the given explanations by the telescope host... but my friend will be his own telescope host and guest at the same time) are just the information I needed. Based on this helpful information, I thought that a 6mm or 7mm Planetary HR eyepiece might just be the right one. What do you think about this particular choice?



#20 Lucullus

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Posted 04 November 2023 - 02:57 AM

Back in the day, Lowell Observatory wrote in a newspaper (https://www.youtube....h?v=DTB-bzMhFfU):

 

The Lowell observatory will be open to the public on Monday evening, May 30, from 8 to 10 o'clock. The moon, Jupiter, and a portion of the Milky Way will be shown.

A. E. Douglass

So that was the intention of the host.

 

Lowell observatory was crowded with visitors from 8 until 11 o'clock p.m. Saturday. A peep through the large telescope at the moon was what the majority of the visitors desired, and their desire was gratified.

So already back then there were visitors bringing desires to a stargazing event besides those being open to what they will be shown.



#21 No N in collimation

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Posted 06 November 2023 - 07:11 PM

I go to such a brightly lit place there isn't much of a choice, it's just the moon and planets. 

 

 

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#22 Agerskov

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Posted 12 November 2023 - 10:46 AM

I conduct outreach from urban spots, so LP is a major player.

 

 

I usually show them :

 

The Moon and brightest available planets among Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Everyone loves them.

 

Stars with contrasting colors like Aldebaran vs Pollux vs Sirius, major success with kids.

Double stars like Castor, Albireo, Algieba or Regulus, kids love them too.

 

Some open clusters like M44, M45, M35, Double cluster in Perseus, etc. Most find them interesting, I ask people to find patterns among their stars.

 

Bright globular clusters like M3, M13, M2, M5. Here we enter the so-so territory. Some find them interesting, others not so much.

Planetary nebulae : M57, NGC 7009 and NGC 3242 are classics. I get kind of a mixed response, same as with globular clusters.

 

Galaxies : only M31.

...

I would ad two objects to your great list:

 

The Mizar/Alcor System
This is my favourite - you tell them to look at the bend of the Big Dipper's handle and ask what they can see.

 

About half say they can see two stars. But either way I tell them that it is an ancient vision test and called the horse and the rider. 

Then pointing the scope at it and ask them what they see. Often they tell me three stars - and then I tell them to look closer at brightest and then they see Mizar's companion. 

I tell that the two brightest and with the companion is a sextupled star systems where the three stars we can see are all close binary systems and they all orbit in pairs where the largest orbit takes about 750.000 years and the tiniest only 20½ days.

What about the star between them?

It is Ludwig's Star which a German astronomer thougth was a planet sevearl decades before Uranus was discovered. He named it after his employer the landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt. One of the few stars named after a person.

 

M42 The Orion Nebula
I can see it through my 70 mm scope without any problems from my Bortle 6 backyard. And telling the viewers they are looking at a star factory. Let them look at the tiny Trapezium with these stars less than one million year old when the Sun is 4.6 billion years old. Its like a few days old baby compared to a middle age adult.

Both are easy to find because they are in two of the easiest constellations/asterism to recognise at the sky and even easy to find within them if they want to look at them with a binocular or telescope when they get home or buy one.


Edited by Agerskov, 12 November 2023 - 10:49 AM.

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#23 Sebastian_Sajaroff

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Posted 13 November 2023 - 04:59 PM

I would ad two objects to your great list:

The Mizar/Alcor System
This is my favourite - you tell them to look at the bend of the Big Dipper's handle and ask what they can see.

About half say they can see two stars. But either way I tell them that it is an ancient vision test and called the horse and the rider.

Then pointing the scope at it and ask them what they see. Often they tell me three stars - and then I tell them to look closer at brightest and then they see Mizar's companion.

I tell that the two brightest and with the companion is a sextupled star systems where the three stars we can see are all close binary systems and they all orbit in pairs where the largest orbit takes about 750.000 years and the tiniest only 20½ days.

What about the star between them?

It is Ludwig's Star which a German astronomer thougth was a planet sevearl decades before Uranus was discovered. He named it after his employer the landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt. One of the few stars named after a person.

M42 The Orion Nebula
I can see it through my 70 mm scope without any problems from my Bortle 6 backyard. And telling the viewers they are looking at a star factory. Let them look at the tiny Trapezium with these stars less than one million year old when the Sun is 4.6 billion years old. Its like a few days old baby compared to a middle age adult.

Both are easy to find because they are in two of the easiest constellations/asterism to recognise at the sky and even easy to find within them if they want to look at them with a binocular or telescope when they get home or buy one.


Thanks! Both are great targets for public outreach

#24 Chris K

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Posted 16 November 2023 - 08:08 PM

Lots of great recommendations here.

 

Thinking about the popularity of the moon, it's doubly fun if there's a feature they can look for. Lunar X or Rupes Recta.

 

When an easy object is in the sky, I teach them to point to it themselves. I defocus and move the scope off Jupiter. Then I show them the red dot finder and have them put it on Jupiter and focus. I feel it adds to their experience and teaches them that even they can do it. Maybe it'll inspire them that much more? 


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#25 triplemon

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Posted 17 November 2023 - 11:32 AM

Well - most folks ask to see what they know about. Which is usually what you can easily see with the naked eye. If you think about it - how would anyone ever ask to see something he doesn't know it exists ?

 

Next come, although rarely, objects that were publicised in the news or on the web. On those, the vast disparity between imagery (all the way to hubble) and visual observation is usually the biggest issue. I once showed off the Whirlpool galaxy under Bortle 2 skies in a 30 inch (!!) dob. The only thing that most will remember was to get up five steps on a ladder in the pitch dark. About half never even saw it and the best question in return was - Is this a black and white telescope ?

 

So I always ask questions to gauge if they actually saw what they were supposed to. And answer the most frequent question "what can I see there": See for yourself and you tell me.

 

IMO the most impressive thing after Planets are super high contrast objects. Essentially a globular cluster, double cluster, Albireo, maybe the ring. Galaxies and nebulae - pretty much pointless.

Another good exercise is matters of scale. I often point out Alcor/Mizar, have folks find it visually first. Then I hand over binoculars or let them look through the fiinder. To make sure they realize its that very same thing there. And finally through the scope.
That brings out comments like "I didn't know the scope looks around the corner", "Are all stars that way ?", "How far is that ?", "I never noticed. Is it always there ?" That are all excellent starters for a bit more trivia.


Edited by triplemon, 17 November 2023 - 11:42 AM.

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