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

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#26 Sketcher



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Posted 02 December 2023 - 07:15 PM

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.

As with the others who've responded, my guests haven't known enough to ask for specific objects unless it's something they've noticed by just looking up with their eyes (like Sirius, low in the sky, flashing in a rainbow of colors).  It's always been up to me to select the objects, and I've always planned in advance the list of objects I'm wanting to share with them.  I do recall one person, on one occasion, who actually did make a specific request -- wanting to see Neptune.  So, after having finished with the rest of the group that one person stayed with me and I showed him Neptune.  We were under a Bortle-1 sky (seriously, not just some dark color on some website) and I was at my own campsite while the group was staying at a separate campsite where they had the added convenience of a campfire, etc.  After showing my last guest Neptune and a few other "bonus" objects I dropped him off to the campsite where the others had already retired to.  That's about the only exception that I can recall where someone had made a specific request.


The telescopes I've used?  I've used different telescopes on different occasions that have included a 200mm f/10, a 152mm f/6.5, a 130mm f/6.4, a 100mm f/10, and an 80mm f/5.  The telescope I used in the above mentioned story was the 130mm f/6.4.  All sessions were fantastic successes.  The telescope used never seemed to really make any difference in guest satisfaction.


I always had at least three eyepieces on hand to use providing a low, a medium, and a high magnification -- since different objects are better observed at different magnifications.  I generally try to select a wide variety of celestial objects, eliminating some of my fainter choices if the moon is up.  The Moon and/or brighter planets tend to be the most popular objects for guests.  But I always include at least one, bright, easy, double star; one open cluster; one globular cluster; etc.


One thing that has made my group sessions so successful is that I've always made a point of pointing out naked-eye sights -- specific constellations, asterisms, naked-eye celestial objects, the Milky Way, satellites, meteors, etc. to the group at large while someone else was at the telescope's eyepiece.  I've often put my wife in charge of supervising the telescope after I've pointed it at a specific object, while I concentrated on "entertaining" everyone else.


So, for the telescope, the f/ratio doesn't really matter.  But given a choice, I would go for something in the f/5 to f/8 range (f/6.5 is looking pretty promising!) so that, through the choice in eyepieces, one can still make use of a relatively low magnification, a medium magnification, and a high magnification.  I've never really considered using only one eyepiece for a group session.  The different objects I choose to share are better at different magnifications.

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#27 Max Headroom

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Posted 03 December 2023 - 12:27 AM

I'm not smart enough to do outreach, but because I work in the evening, I occasionally set the scope up at work, and invite the coworkers out to observe.  Like a lot of the above comments, most don't even know what to ask to see, I would have to show them things I think the average non-astronomer would think is interesting.  Jupiter, and Saturn, and M42 if they are up are usually winners.  Sometimes there's an interesting globular I can show.  But, hands down, Saturn seems to be the fav.  Even if Jupiter is closer and better viewing, there's something about Saturn that everyone seems to think is interesting.  My guess is the rings.  Second after Saturn is the Jovian moons. Most folks aren't aware of how visible they are.  Interestingly, our moon doesn't seem to rate very high with folks.  
I also bring a pair of binocs so they can see that these items are also viewable without a scope.  Many find that interesting.  And the scope itself is usually something people ask about, and want to know how it works.  Widefield views don't seem to rate very high.  I think when people see a scope, they expect close up views.

Edited by Max Headroom, 03 December 2023 - 12:30 AM.

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#28 mogur



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Posted 03 December 2023 - 01:02 PM

I think that most "newbs" want to see the moon and planets, or maybe the sun, but after they see what a good scope can do they want to go after the "faint fuzzies" and aperture fever sets in!

Edited by mogur, 03 December 2023 - 01:03 PM.

#29 No N in collimation

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Posted 03 December 2023 - 07:25 PM

"I'm not smart enough to do outreach ..."

I don't think you need to be smart for outreach. All you need to do it point the telescope at an object, explain how to focus, and say "Check this out."


"Interestingly, our moon doesn't seem to rate very high with folks."

That is not my experience. I ask "Isn't that the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?"

#30 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 04 December 2023 - 02:45 AM

I've participated in quite a lot of public outreach over the years, most of it during public observing sessions at the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg's Naylor Observatory.  We typically have a number of telescopes, each trained on a different object, for at least some period of time.  Those objects will vary with the time of year, of course.  


During a special group visit last Thursday, I kept the observatory's 17" classical Cassegrain on Jupiter until everyone in the group had seen it.  Then I trained the telescope on Saturn, primarily because of the clouds that were present in other parts of the sky, even though at least one of the telescopes in the other buildings had been on that planet from the start.  I also showed the visitors Albireo, until it got clouded over, and later, M57, to a few of the remaining folks.


One of the other ASH members present was running the ZWO Seestar S50 that the club recently received, as well as one of the club's 14" Meade SCTs, and managed to get some rather decent images of a handful of deep-sky objects such as M31 to show people on a tablet. 


One question that is often asked is, "How far away is that?", so it pays to have that information at hand.

#31 mogur



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Posted 04 December 2023 - 12:54 PM

Unfortunately, the question I get a lot is: "What's that worth?" Not even how much it cost, but what could someone get for it. mad.gif

#32 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 04 December 2023 - 04:01 PM

I've also participated in a large public event known as Starfest a number of times that another club that I belong to hosts.




We set up 10 telescopes in a row, each one trained on a different celestial object.  A placard near the telescope has information on that object.


Other members and members of other clubs set up telescopes opposite the 10 Object Row.







#33 MCueball


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Posted 04 December 2023 - 06:03 PM

As a common contributor to my club's outreach team, I hear a lot of planet requests when we are doing educational outreach. Many kids are disappointed when we can't show them Mars or Neptune because of the planet's position or light pollution.


We try to have a variety of objects to see and if we repeat we have different magnifications and/or fields of view to show how those things can affect what a person sees. Overall though, most people who attend observing events don't really have an idea what they want to see or even what that object will look like through a telescope. Astrophotography has unfortunately set unrealistic expectations on what people will see when looking through the scope.

#34 Sebastian_Sajaroff


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Posted 05 December 2023 - 09:47 AM

Sun is a very interesting target for outreach, specially during these years of max activity.

The fact it's daytime helps a lot to gather more public.


I did some solar outreach activities, also showed them Venus (if favorably placed) and the Moon.

People can't believe that Venus is so bright even during daytime.

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