Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers day weekend - outreach part 1

Fathers Day has arrived, and a big Happy Fathers Day to my own dad, Jack (are you reading the blog?)  While I receive some nice cards and get to eat a delicious brunch with the family, the day is most important to me as I reflect on being a father to such a wonderful son as Ian.  He is more than I ever could have hoped for in a son and I learn things from him every single day.  This may be the last blog post for awhile as we are about to embark on several adventures...first to the beach in North Carolina with Beth's family and then Ian and I, along with my niece Cierra, to Colorado and Utah for three weeks of camping and outdoor adventure.  Don't despair though, I will be attending a star party in Colorado and doing some observing if I can find a computer, I'll be posting some updates.  To the left is Ian during our trip last summer to Colorado.

Quite a busy weekend for the Lost Pleiad Observatory staff (that's me!) with lots of observing and outreach.  Recently I have started volunteering at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, assisting with the SkyNights public observing program on the 24 inch RC Optical Systems Ritchey-Chrétien telescope seen at left  (Photo credit to Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona (Board of Regents)). I will post more on this in the future, but yesterday I assisted on the mountain with the Discovery Days program.  This program introduces visitors to all kinds of science that takes place on the mountain, from tree ring research, to near earth object (NEO) research, to visual observing.  In the image below (Photo credit to Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona (Board of Regents)), you can see a few of the domes on the mountain.  The dome to the left houses the 24 inch and the SkyNights program; the dome to the rear of the image houses the 60 inch telescope that is the primary instrument of the Catalina Sky Survey;  the dome on the right is remotely operated the government of South Korea; and the silver dome in the foreground is the Jamieson telescope.

I spent the day assisting with the 24 inch telescope, where we showed visitors Venus and a few bright stars; as well as facilitating white light and hydrogen alpha solar observing through solar telescopes.   Of course I forgot my camera so I do not have any pictures of the days events.  Before the public started arriving, I made quick sketches of the sun in both white light and hydrogen alpha in order that folks would know what to look for through our telescopes.  As you can see below, the sun was not that active although most visitors were able to see the active regions, the large dark filament, and the beautiful prominences on the suns east limb.  The spots were harder for visitors to see as they are rather small features, although many succeeded in seeing them.

After a good nights sleep, I awoke this morning to a very calm sky, although temperatures were climbing quickly.  I set up my Lunt 60mm scope and made the sketch below with pencil on white paper.  For kicks, I inverted the sketch and I kind of like the result-

Compared to yesterdays sketches, you can see that while the large dark filament near the central meridian of the disk has weakened, the active region itself (#11082) has strengthened and now shows distinct spots as well as a long curving filament that traverses the entire region.  There are also many large but faint prominences on the east limb.  Stephen Ames made a fantastic sketch of the prominences as seen to the right.

I'll be spending the day enjoying fathers day, and this evening I will be heading to the Biosphere for part two of the weekends outreach...My good friend Jerry Farrar and I will be taking a group of local science teachers on a telescopic tour of some of the showpiece objects visible in tonights sky.  Stay tuned for the blog report tomorrow...and tonight I'll bring the camera!

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