if a tree falls in the forest

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and you’re on the wrong side of the park…

by Ted Frimet

An additional observers account of AAAP outreach at the Sacred Heart:

Materials brought to site included:

8” Meade SCT (15 year old scope, alt-az in equatorial mount equivalent install – pointed North, acquired from a Long Island outreach, refurbished, manual only mode. 25mm eyepiece with a passable diagonal).

6” Celestron (Newtownian, German equatorial mount, tripod legs collapsed to accommodate the viewers height, 20mm eyepiece)

15 x 70 Celestron binocular (strap intact for safety, I insist that only a parent or teacher is allowed to put the strap on the student.) small spotting scope – to hand to an observer in the event that binocular or mounted telescopes are not student accessible.

All the above are manual, & all were designated for hands on activity by the kids, or parents. I have done 10 or more outreach (literally just outside our observatory) sessions, last year, using some combination of the above.

Bringing that experience, here at Sacred Heart highlights a few iotas:

When the hands-on scope was set up and ready, almost immediately after announcing its availability, a line grew. This was after the public use of the existing telescopes on the field had already been established, and interest may have waxed and waned.

The “lead” 4th grade astronomer, after being briefed on her Meade 8” SCT telescope, set on teaching others, in line, how to operate in turn.

As the 8” SCT was getting its work-out, I brought out the 15 x 70 Celestron binoculars and handed them off to the first parent, that had none.

I later noted that a fellow astronomer was assisting in acquisition of a star using telrad, on the “hands-on” scope. I breathed a sigh of relief, that the telescope was not unattended, while I was completing a setup, a few feet away.

It is at times like this, that learning functionality trumps true location of a star in a field.

We concur that it is acceptable for a fourth grader to learn how to move a fork mounted or equatorial scope, and not be too concerned with the accuracy of her stellar acquisition.

I continue to observe just how those faces light up, each time they find a star in a telrad center ring, and acquire a star in their eyepiece, of their own accord.

I heard the lead teacher, clearly, when she remarked about one or few stars, and Orion’s nebula. And this must have been concurrent with the various targets, preset by club astronomers, at their scopes.

The “ok to touch and move” display works well enough, when the observer is left to learn, at her own pace. Working independently, she now becomes free of any preconceived notion of what astronomy is. As no adult is choosing for her, I find our budding astronomer forming her own, lasting opinion, experientially.

By the time I had set up the 6” Newtonian reflector, the crowd had diminished. However, I had repossessed the binoculars in time to entertain two parents, and their two girls.

The girls were agape with wonder as they viewed the moon, and the parents had a good view, as well. And further had the opportunity to compare the views from a 6” Newtonian versus the “double” 70mm ocular.

I was surprised when one of the parents discussed the merits of the moons terminator line. And how the moon light interfered with stellar viewing.

A brief engagement in conversation revealed to them that I am from Bucks County.
And one Mom let me know that they were from Newtown, Pennsylvania.

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