March 2010 Wayside Night Sky Program
On March 23, eight or nine club members set up on the Wayside Elementary playground as part of our Night Sky for Schools program. The sky was compromised somewhat by high thin clouds throughout the evening, and the first quarter Moon made the situation worse by illuminating the clouds. Nevertheless, we were able to observe plenty of brighter objects, including the Moon, Mars, Saturn and the Orion Nebula. Fainter objects, such as M67, that would show an eyepiece full of stars on a dark night, were degraded badly by the low sky contrast, and were not used.
About 50 students, each accompanied by at least one parent, attended the Night Sky program. It was a good crowd, well controlled and very enthusiastic. Despite the large number of visitors, we had enough telescopes and binoculars to provide plenty of viewing time for everyone, with no long lines. We also had plenty of variety among the instruments available, including several Newtonian reflectors, a couple of Schmidt-Cassegrains, several refractors and several tripod mounted binoculars. Daryl Doughty's equatorial mounted, dual refractor setup, attracted attention with live video images from a DSLR camera attached to one of the refractors. Daryl also displayed a nice collection of digital photos he'd taken previously.
It's always rewarding to see the excitement kids (and adults) have when seeing the Moon or planets through a telescope for the first time. There are lots of ooh's and ah's and "Cool!", but Saturn always gets the most dramatic responses. Last night I stopped counting the number of times I heard a long, drawn out "Oooh, Wow!", when someone put their eye to the eyepiece and saw the ringed planet for the first time. That alone made it worth the time and effort to disassemble, load, unload and then reassemble my telescope, twice.
We will provide a second Wayside Night Sky evening, this time for the younger elementary students, probably the week of April 20. I'll email the details when they're finalized. I hope we have as many or more volunteers as this time, and I've got my fingers crossed for good weather.
Thanks again to all the volunteers who helped provide such an interesting evening of astronomy for the kids.