Jump to content

  •  

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Photo

How to setup a telescope for outreach in the city? E.g. sidewalk astronomy

  • Please log in to reply
19 replies to this topic

#1 ilessthan3math

ilessthan3math

    Lift Off

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 10
  • Joined: 18 Oct 2022
  • Loc: Boston, MA

Posted 20 October 2023 - 10:26 AM

I've had tons of outreach events cancelled with my club recently due to poor weather. Not much I can do about it, obviously, but I was having the itch to just get out there and show people the moon and Saturn, so wanted to just take my scope out after work (solo) and do a little sidewalk astronomy in Boston on the only clear night recently. Unfortunately I ran into parking challenges and had to bail on my plan and just go home.

Have folks found a way to do this kind of outreach completely solo, or do you basically need an assistant/partner to help setup and break down? I use a 10" dobsonian, but I'm not sure the exact scope type fully matters for the issue I ran into. I don't see how I'd carry everything all at once even for a smaller scope, so we're talking 2 trips to-and-from the car to get a scope ready. Bring the dob base over first, then go throw a backpack on with some eyepieces and such, and bring over the OTA. Same process in reverse at the end of the session.

 

This process sort of requires my car be within 50-100ft of where I'm going to setup for the evening. Boston or any other major city creates some pretty serious challenges in making this happen. The only solution I can come up with was having a 2nd person there. So I could park reasonably far from my setup spot and one person carries the OTA and the other carries the base. Not ideal, but certainly doable. But I'd typically be trying to do this after work, so much more likely I'd be solo.

 

Interested in how other folks have handled this, either by using much more compact gear, or being creative with where you choose to setup. I looked at Google Maps for quite awhile trying to find a reasonable spot where I'd be able to park and unload near a public area with decent views, but ended up striking out.


  • Matt78 likes this

#2 Mike G.

Mike G.

    Mercury-Atlas

  • *****
  • Posts: 2,972
  • Joined: 17 Jun 2013
  • Loc: Oberlin, Ohio

Posted 20 October 2023 - 10:51 AM

when your scope is so large you need multiple trips and its a public area, you either need extra helpers (so someone can stay with what you carry in the first trip) or a smaller scope (one trip setup).  I would suggest a 6" SCT or 5" mak for planetary 'sidewalk' outreach. or, bring a friend.


  • Augustus likes this

#3 Don25

Don25

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 798
  • Joined: 20 Oct 2003
  • Loc: Delaware, U.S.A.

Posted 20 October 2023 - 11:47 AM

 There's safety in numbers, and having a buddy to helpout, can be beneficial.  Also, if by yourself, you'll need to keep your head on a swivel, if you have an Eyepiece case, or something that somebody can scoop up quickly, and beat feet.

 

    Saw a couple street performers in Baltimore, with an open guitar case, collecting money.....In broad daylight, a guy reached down like He was adding money, and scooped up the guitar case, and took off. Luckily the street performer caught up with him, and got it back.



#4 ilessthan3math

ilessthan3math

    Lift Off

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 10
  • Joined: 18 Oct 2022
  • Loc: Boston, MA

Posted 20 October 2023 - 12:05 PM

 There's safety in numbers, and having a buddy to helpout, can be beneficial.  Also, if by yourself, you'll need to keep your head on a swivel, if you have an Eyepiece case, or something that somebody can scoop up quickly, and beat feet.

 

    Saw a couple street performers in Baltimore, with an open guitar case, collecting money.....In broad daylight, a guy reached down like He was adding money, and scooped up the guitar case, and took off. Luckily the street performer caught up with him, and got it back.

I've definitely become more aware of that aspect when out by myself. I tend to only bring my cheapest eyepieces to do outreach. Something I'm willing to lose or damage. If possible, I keep my 2nd and 3rd eyepieces just in a pocket so that I don't have anything expensive lying around away from the scope.


  • No N in collimation likes this

#5 ilessthan3math

ilessthan3math

    Lift Off

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 10
  • Joined: 18 Oct 2022
  • Loc: Boston, MA

Posted 20 October 2023 - 12:13 PM

when your scope is so large you need multiple trips and its a public area, you either need extra helpers (so someone can stay with what you carry in the first trip) or a smaller scope (one trip setup).  I would suggest a 6" SCT or 5" mak for planetary 'sidewalk' outreach. or, bring a friend.

Maybe a dolly would work to do it in a single trip? I see people use that sort of setup for moving a dobsonian around their driveways and garages. I've never bothered because at my house I have to setup on the other side of some gravel and grass, so not exactly wheel-friendly. But if I'm going from a parking garage down an an elevator and a sidewalk, maybe it wouldn't be impossible to do a single trip.

Is that insane? Not sure how hard it is to wheel around a dob on a dolly for moderate distances.


  • Jon Isaacs likes this

#6 Don25

Don25

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 798
  • Joined: 20 Oct 2003
  • Loc: Delaware, U.S.A.

Posted 20 October 2023 - 12:22 PM

Maybe a dolly would work to do it in a single trip? I see people use that sort of setup for moving a dobsonian around their driveways and garages. I've never bothered because at my house I have to setup on the other side of some gravel and grass, so not exactly wheel-friendly. But if I'm going from a parking garage down an an elevator and a sidewalk, maybe it wouldn't be impossible to do a single trip.

Is that insane? Not sure how hard it is to wheel around a dob on a dolly for moderate distances.

Hey, there you go, I just came up with a great idea...

 

Retrofit a dolly, that uses rubber Tank-like treads, and an electric motor, with remote control, to get over rough terrain. You can send the money from the proceeds, to me.....lol

 

Better idea....use a Gimbal, or whatever is used to keep Cameras steady, and adapt it to keep the Dob level, while moving.

 

I'll make even more money, from those patents!!!


Edited by Don25, 20 October 2023 - 12:25 PM.


#7 Jim4321

Jim4321

    Aurora

  • -----
  • Posts: 4,863
  • Joined: 19 Sep 2014
  • Loc: Asheville

Posted 20 October 2023 - 01:16 PM

Check with your city parking authority and find out what it takes to reserve a specific parking space for a day.  Or maybe easier, see if your club will sponsor you (and maybe a helper), and pick up the tab.  Our club does this for organized solar events, tho' I'm sure our partnership with the local state university helps with getting city cooperation.  

 

Jim H.


  • Mike G. likes this

#8 Jon Isaacs

Jon Isaacs

    ISS

  • *****
  • Posts: 112,919
  • Joined: 16 Jun 2004
  • Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA

Posted 20 October 2023 - 02:31 PM

Hand trucks are a great way to move a 10 inch Dob. I resisted the idea but within the last year, I tried it and really like it. 

 

With larger scopes wheel barrow handles are the ticket but for a 10 inch or 12 inch, a hand truck is great.

 

This is the only photo I have.. I had no one to take a photo. Ed has posted some nice photos of his 12 inch all packed up with a chair.

 

10 inch Dob on Handtruck - 1.jpg

 

Jon


  • maroubra_boy, No N in collimation and ilessthan3math like this

#9 ilessthan3math

ilessthan3math

    Lift Off

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 10
  • Joined: 18 Oct 2022
  • Loc: Boston, MA

Posted 20 October 2023 - 03:23 PM

Hand trucks are a great way to move a 10 inch Dob. I resisted the idea but within the last year, I tried it and really like it. 

 

With larger scopes wheel barrow handles are the ticket but for a 10 inch or 12 inch, a hand truck is great.

 

This is the only photo I have.. I had no one to take a photo. Ed has posted some nice photos of his 12 inch all packed up with a chair.

 

 

 

Jon

Looks great! That was my thought once I got home and thought on it some more. I did have a chintzy collapsible hand-cart/dolly that the seller of my dob included with my purchase, but it wasn't up to the task of holding the weight of a 10". The wheels and base used to cave in on themselves.

Do you know the model of hand-cart in your photo (if you feel it works well)? And is the bottom shelf of it wide enough to provide reasonable stability to the rocker box of the dob? That was the other issue I had with the cheap one I had - it always felt like it was at-risk of tipping or sliding off the cart.


  • No N in collimation likes this

#10 Jon Isaacs

Jon Isaacs

    ISS

  • *****
  • Posts: 112,919
  • Joined: 16 Jun 2004
  • Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA

Posted 20 October 2023 - 03:37 PM

I don't have the exact model, it's more than 25 years old. I did see some similar models at Harbor Freight the other day. It converts from a 2 wheel dolly to a 4 wheel.

 

It works well for me. It feels stable and I've never felt it necessary to tie it down.  

 

One trick:  There are three pads that rest on the ground. I want two of them resting on the platform. I also want the non focuser side of the rocker box next to the hand truck.

 

I find the two pads by tilting the non focuser side towards me. When it tilts parallel, I know the two pads are there..

 

https://www.harborfr...city-58295.html

 

Jon

 


  • ilessthan3math likes this

#11 maroubra_boy

maroubra_boy

    Soyuz

  • -----
  • Posts: 3,769
  • Joined: 08 Sep 2009
  • Loc: Sydney, Australia

Posted 20 October 2023 - 04:03 PM

A hand truck with pneumatic tyres is a great option.  But only if you have a car that is able to accommodate one along with the scope.  You also have a trip hazard for the public with the hand truck.  HOWEVER, a hand truck is a ready made post to stick a sign or two to let people know what you are doing, which is a big help to overcome people's suspicion of a dob not looking like a real scope...

 

You could also look at a garden cart, also with pneumatic tyres.  These can be less problematic to stow in a car, but selection needs to be done carefully to make sure it is stable enough.

 

Another solution is a smaller Cat, say around 5" to 6" on a compact alt az tracking mount.  Or a garden cart can be used to carry a larger alt az mount or eq mount & tripod while you carry the OTA in a should strap bag (as an option).

 

The 8" dob I use for sidewalk astro I made the mount for.  It's design allowed for carry handles to be easily incorporated and the OTA fits into the well of the rocker box without it needing to be sitting on the alt bearings so the whole thing is more compact and easier to carry.  Its design also makes stowing it at home more compact too.  The second pic below shows how the OTA fits inside the rocker box, before I made the legs for the mount.  Because I designed the whole thing, mount & scope cradle, I have no balance issues regardless of whatever eyepiece I use, wee plossl or 1kg hand grenade, and no friction modifying alt bearings needed so no change in the quality of the action and no backlash.  But this is the advantage one can get with DIY.

 

If you have an observing buddy that shares your enthusiasm for outreach, this is a big bonus with advantages that don't need listing.  Allows for two scopes to be used this way too.

 

Alex.

Attached Thumbnails

  • F4's legs (2) - Copy.JPG
  • 128.jpg

  • hardwarezone and Mike G. like this

#12 ilessthan3math

ilessthan3math

    Lift Off

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 10
  • Joined: 18 Oct 2022
  • Loc: Boston, MA

Posted 20 October 2023 - 04:34 PM

I don't have the exact model, it's more than 25 years old. I did see some similar models at Harbor Freight the other day. It converts from a 2 wheel dolly to a 4 wheel.

 

It works well for me. It feels stable and I've never felt it necessary to tie it down.  

 

One trick:  There are three pads that rest on the ground. I want two of them resting on the platform. I also want the non focuser side of the rocker box next to the hand truck.

 

I find the two pads by tilting the non focuser side towards me. When it tilts parallel, I know the two pads are there..

 

https://www.harborfr...city-58295.html

 

Jon

 

Ah - that looks like a pretty sturdy option. The one I temporarily used was the cheaper $30 collapsible one on the same website: https://www.harborfr...ruck-58298.html

I can't say I'd recommend that one for a dob. I ran into a lot of issues with the wheels wanting to fold in on me and the whole thing sort of just becoming unstable, even just moving around my driveway.


  • Jon Isaacs likes this

#13 Jon Isaacs

Jon Isaacs

    ISS

  • *****
  • Posts: 112,919
  • Joined: 16 Jun 2004
  • Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA

Posted 20 October 2023 - 07:45 PM

Ah - that looks like a pretty sturdy option. The one I temporarily used was the cheaper $30 collapsible one on the same website: https://www.harborfr...ruck-58298.html

I can't say I'd recommend that one for a dob. I ran into a lot of issues with the wheels wanting to fold in on me and the whole thing sort of just becoming unstable, even just moving around my driveway.

 

We have one of those. It's nice for hauling boxes to the post office from the car but not for 10 inch Dob's.

 

Jon



#14 therealdmt

therealdmt

    Gemini

  • *****
  • Moderators
  • Posts: 3,189
  • Joined: 05 Mar 2015
  • Loc: 35° N

Posted 23 October 2023 - 04:21 AM

I use a 72ED refractor on a carbon fiber photo tripod -- can easily lift the whole rig, everything mounted and ready to observe, in one hand and carry it short distances like that. Or with two hands (each grabbing a tripod leg), I can carry it a few short blocks (for, say, up to 5 minutes) without setting it down. I keep a zoom in the focuser (well, star diagonal) and a 30mm Plossl in my pocket, maybe a barlow too, and that's it, so nothing else to carry. Center column elevates, so no need for a chair. If I have to walk further than that or use public transport, I un-mount the scope, disconnect diagonal and such, and carry the scope in a little soft case (strap over shoulder), the tripod w/ mount resting on my other shoulder, and sundries like eyepiece(s), finder and diagonal in a bookbag on my back. Like, that, I can take it across a city and then set up at the destination or later break it back down for carrying home in just a few minutes.

 

72mm might sound too small, and it is small of course, but people really dig it. Or rather, they dig being able to see a planet, the Moon, a bright colorful double like Almach or Albireo, or the great open cluster Pleiades through it, right from the middle of a city. A major smile generator, especially when showing Saturn.

 

My point? This could be a good excuse to get that sweet little refractor you've been considering grin.gif

 

But yeah, with an 8" Dob, if you can't park within 20 or 30 yards/meters or so and in line of sight of where you'll be setting up, that sounds like a two-person job. Otherwise, if parking is an issue (which it sounds like it is) and you want to be able to set up on your own on a whim potentially some considerable distance from your car, something smaller that you can carry in one trip, mount, scope and all accessories included, could be a good way to handle it


  • mdowns, hardwarezone, BFaucett and 1 other like this

#15 Sebastian_Sajaroff

Sebastian_Sajaroff

    Surveyor 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 1,749
  • Joined: 27 Jan 2023
  • Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Posted 23 October 2023 - 07:20 AM

IMHO, you don’t need a 10" to show Saturn to the general public. My family and friends are flabbergasted by Saturn, its rings and Titan on my puny 3" at 120x.

It obviously looks better on a 10", but question is : would public appreciate the enhancement enough to make it worth ?

99% of the public will stare in awe at the yellow orb and its ring "as is", very few will ask for Enceladus or the Encke gap.

According to my experience, when people goes to an outreach event they worry mostly about :

1. Viewing something wow! (like Saturn)
2. Reaching comfortably the eyepiece
3. Seeing comfortably through it
4. Breaking anything, specially those with kids.
5. Getting hurt in the process (mostly elders)

Edited by Sebastian_Sajaroff, 23 October 2023 - 07:21 AM.

  • hardwarezone, therealdmt, Augustus and 2 others like this

#16 Paul Sweeney

Paul Sweeney

    Apollo

  • -----
  • Posts: 1,331
  • Joined: 19 Feb 2018
  • Loc: Heidelberg, Germany

Posted 02 November 2023 - 02:05 PM

You might contact the mayors office and tell them what you want to do. They might help you with parking, and may assign you someone to help with crowd control. Are you planning on viewing from the common or the waterfront, or just from somewhere downtown?

You need a second person to help keep an eye on your stuff. There always seems to be someone that steals something, so you really need to have someone watching while you are busy finding the next target. I've had stuff stolen in broad daylight, and there were two of us there.
  • Sebastian_Sajaroff likes this

#17 ShaulaB

ShaulaB

    Aurora

  • *****
  • Posts: 4,631
  • Joined: 11 Oct 2012
  • Loc: Missouri

Posted 02 November 2023 - 02:19 PM

Here is what I use to do urban astronomy. For the record, I drive a four door hatchback.

* A folding cart
* 4.5 inch StarBlast tabletop Dob with an 8-24mm zoom eyepiece and color filters.
* A small folding table, around $20 at discount stores.
* A folding chair. Tiny kids can get up on it to look, others hold onto it to steady themselves while bending over to the eyepiece.
* My phone with Sky Safari to show names of Galilean moons.

People are always delighted to see the Moon.
I have also carted an inexpensive 4" f8 refractor on a GoTo mount for higher magnification views of planets.
  • geovermont likes this

#18 Sunsparc

Sunsparc

    Sputnik

  • *****
  • Posts: 48
  • Joined: 06 Dec 2020

Posted 03 November 2023 - 01:26 PM

I put my XT10 on a handtruck, then wedge my folding camp table and accessory briefcase between the scope and the truck structure. Double benefit, single trip and the extra stuff provides protection for the scope tube.



#19 No N in collimation

No N in collimation

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 506
  • Joined: 10 Jun 2020
  • Loc: 36° N

Posted 06 November 2023 - 07:48 PM

Have folks found a way to do this kind of outreach completely solo ...?

 

I go solo and take what I can based on what I can carry. For me that amounts to a small scope in my backpack, a tripod and small mount thrown over my shoulder, and a plastic shopping bag with a few props.

 

I refuse to pay for parking, so it has to be small and light and convenient, with no second trip. Instead I walk a few blocks. We live in a tourist destination, so I go where the people are. It's all lit up, the world's worst place for astronomy, so it's mainly just the planets and moon. I used to use a big Dob, but why kill yourself? This is supposed to be fun. In my experience people enjoy it just as much.

 

Scopes: ST80 for the moon, Mak 102 for the planets. Props: mini moon globe, mini Jupiter globe, etc., based on the night, and planet stickers for kids. The #1 question: "How much does this setup cost?"

Attached Thumbnails

  • IMG_2710.jpg
  • IMG_1291.jpg

  • maroubra_boy, mdowns, Sebastian_Sajaroff and 1 other like this

#20 Richard Low

Richard Low

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 914
  • Joined: 27 Nov 2005
  • Loc: Singapore

Posted 09 December 2023 - 04:32 AM

I've done sidewalk astronomy in groups and also done it alone.

 

If on your own, it would be best if you can set up the telescope next to your parked vehicle. Then it doesnt matter how big or how much equipment you bring.

 

Otherwise it will have to be a trolleyed equipment. If not  then a grab-and-go set up. Make sure to bring all essential accessories you need. Either way I have to bring in one trip so there isnt any fear of stuff going missing.

 

Always ensure you have taken a meal and toilet break before the event. And being a bottle of water to keep hydrated during the event.


  • Jim4321 likes this


CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


Recent Topics






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics