2012 06 23 – AAS Outreach at Eagle Eye Observatory

Earlier that Saturday, I had a solar outreach event with the Webelos Scouts. I had time for a quick break at home before heading back out to the Canyon of the Eagles Lodge and Nature Preserve, in particular, the Eagle Eye Observatory for another quick solar outreach followed by nighttime outreach with the public through the Austin Astronomical Society (AAS).

This was my first star party with the AAS and I brought both my DS Maxscope 60mm h-alpha scope and my 102 Celestron refractor with LXD75 mount. The views through the solar scope were very dim because of the Sun being so low on the horizon. It’s a pity the star parties don’t begin a little sooner because of that, but I suppose when most people think of astronomy, they think of night time viewing instead of our day star. There are exceptions to that, of course. I would like to see a dedicated solar star party closer to where I live…maybe someday.

Would you believe there were no sunspots at all that day to show off the white light filter views, especially as we are in the midst of a solar maximum? The chromospheric views were terrific in h-alpha, though, so not all was lost. I handed out a few more solar glasses and the recipients were incredibly thankful for them. I never tire of talking about the Sun and tried my best to educate the viewers of what they were seeing and how to observe. (Thinking of my buddy, Gary Gibbs, who used to own that wonderful Maxscope and thankful that he graciously sold it to me several years ago.)

After the Sun went down, I got out my trusty planisphere and Pocket Sky Atlas. Although I have GOTO on my mount, I struggle remembering to use it as I’m so used to star hopping and actually prefer to star hop. I use my mount mainly for its tracking. At the next public star party event, I will certainly take advantage of the GOTO feature as it would be a lot faster than hunting down targets to share. I also found that I need a lot more practice speaking out to crowds to invite them over to my scope. Perhaps I spend too much time on my own with just the dogs around me when I observe. It was obvious that I was a bit of a wallflower nestled securely behind my scope, completely unsure of how to share night skies with the general public. The other members of AAS were terrific and I look forward to gaining experience through them.

There were about 15 member scopes including the two observatory scopes and approximately 112 visitors, although there very well could have been more that didn’t sign in. A handful of astro imagers were off to the other side of the observing field and produced some exceptionally beautiful images from that night. The event ended at midnight, but by the time I packed up my scopes and headed home, it was nearly 2am. Had I not had the dogs to consider, I would have happily spent the entire night out there sketching and observing targets that I wasn’t able to see very well from our old location in Ohio.

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~ by Erika Rix on July 5, 2012.

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