2011 07 23 Celebration of the Sun

Perkins Observatory – OWU held a series of programs in honor of the Sun. I’ve been meaning to attend the past couple of years, but this year Paul and I were finally able to go.

The afternoon started off by visiting with a member of the Columbus Astronomical Society that we hadn’t seen for a few years, a quick look around the observatory, and then making ourselves comfortable in the old lecture room where I’ve had the pleasure of giving an astronomical sketching presentation in the past. I was pleased to see several children attend the program with their parents and grandparents.

We were given a Power Point presentation of solar features as well as a little history of solar observing. They kept it light and entertaining, although still very interesting. I’m hopeful that the program will spark an interest in solar observing for those that attended.

After the initial presentation, there were three telescopes set up for viewing: one for projection with an 8″ reflector, a Solarmax 60mm, and then a homemade 6-8″ solar “reflector” without a mirror reflective coating that was made for solar observing. A demonstration was given on the dangers of solar observing without proper equipment by holding a piece of bark behind the eyepiece and how quickly it scorched and started smoking.

People were explained the color spectrum by means of solar glasses along with the help of rainbow colored suspenders – wearing the glasses, we could see that the main spectra were the colors green and red. The Sun is portrayed yellow, so is it a coincidence that yellow is smack dab in the middle between green and red in the color spectrum?

Following the solar viewing, everyone learned how to put the size of the Sun into perspective, not only with regards to how large it is compared to Earth, but also to other stars and how large it is “actually” is visually to us. A yellow soccer ball was put on the ground and we stood in a line and walked a measured amount away from it as a ratio of how far Earth is from the Sun. Each person was asked to hold up their pinky and align their pinky nail next to the soccer ball. The soccer ball’s size represented the size of the Sun, which was just smaller than my fingernail. We then held our pinky up to the sky to see just how large the Sun would be in the sky. It, of course, appears larger because of the brightness, but after putting on the solar glasses and judging its size with our pinky finger nails, the size was marginally smaller than what one would think!

We were given a very entertaining lesson on rocket launching safety and then headed outside to experience the excitement of setting off rockets!

Two were set off. One used the electric from his car battery as an igniter. This one (shown in the photo) was made from a plastic soda bottle, water, and air. The pressure of the air combined with the compressible water was used to launch the rocket. (Hint: we were told that when he was ten years old and experimented, he found that jello worked better than water!)

Not part of the program, but a very fun addition to the observatory, was a pair of whispering disks. They were about 40 paces from each other. Two people can hold a conversation with each other, each talking in front of his/her opposing disk…as shown by these siblings. I wish I could caught on camera the looks on their faces when they discovered the disks actually worked!

The final portion of the program was a tour of the observatory. Paul and I had taken a tour a few years ago and decided to quietly slip away for the journey home. We ran into quite a bit of rain on the last stretch of highway coming out of Columbus. Looks like the program was timed just right.

What a very enjoyable afternoon spent with the focus on my favorite star. And even more so, watching others being introduced to our Sun for the first time! Thank you members of Perkins Observatory and CAS.

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~ by Erika Rix on July 24, 2011.

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