Asteroid Day at the Cronyn Observatory, June 30th, 2017

Western University’s Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) in collaboration with the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Earth Sciences hosted a special event at the Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory on Asteroid Day, Friday, June 30, 2017. Asteroid Day is held each year on the anniversary of the 1908 Tunguska impact event in Siberia—the largest in recent history—and is a global awareness campaign bringing people around the world together to learn about asteroids and how to protect future generations from cosmic impacts.

The event organizer was recent Western University doctoral graduate in astronomy, Parshati Patel, who is Outreach Program Coordinator for Western’s Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration. RASC London Centre was represented by Henry Leparskas, Heather MacIsaac and Bob Duff. There were digital slide presentations by 2 faculty members, including Professors Peter Brown, “Asteroid Impacts and Hazards” (2:30 p.m.) and Paul Wiegert “Search for Asteroids” (3:30 p.m.).

Downstairs in the “Black Room” Professor Audrey Bouvier, Curator of the Western Meteorite Collection, Earth Sciences Department; and Kayle Hansen, Research Assistant at CPSX (and Planetary Society, London Chapter, Outreach Coordinator), fielded questions at the Meteorites & Impactites Display table. People were invited to bring rocks they thought might be meteorites for inspection by a Meteorite Expert on site. Dr. Audrey Bouvier was there 2:00—4:30 p.m. Recent doctoral graduate in astronomy Maryam Tabeshian presided over the Edible Rock Analysis display table and compared cut-away chocolates and chocolate bars with pictures of meteorite cross-sections to explain different types of meteorites. Parshati later took over the Edible Rock Analysis display table. Undergraduate student Dana Beaton operated the Impact Cratering Demonstration, using the Short Range Projectile Launcher mounted on a stand to fire a 2cm diameter ball into a transparent Plexiglas box filled with sand at the bottom. A slow motion demonstration of an impact was also shown on a small laptop computer. A CTV London cameraman was there and videoed the impact cratering demonstrations and other activities.

Mark Tovey gave visitors tours of the downstairs “1940s Period Room,” an historic recreation (designed by Mark) of Dr. H. R. Kingston’s 1940 office with his brass refractor and the Sotellunium—a mechanical eclipse demonstration model built by W. G. Colgrove—on display. Mark also showed them his work being done on the “1967 Period Room,” recreating the early control room of the Elginfield Observatory to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation—Canada 150.

There was solar observing upstairs on the observation deck outside the dome under partly cloudy skies with the bright Sun occasionally obscured by clouds. Henry Leparskas, later assisted by Bob Duff, showed visitors prominences and filament on the Sun through the observatory’s 90mm Coronado H-Alpha Solar Telescope (CEMAX 18mm eyepiece and 2X Barlow lens, 88X) on the Sky-Watcher EQ5 mount. Heather MacIsaac showed people a tiny sunspot on the Sun through her Celestron Go-To 90mm Maksutov (32mm Plossl eyepiece, 39X) with a Kendrick Astro Baader film solar filter. Heather gave 2 visitors a tour of the big 25.4cm refractor in the dome and explained the Standard and Sidereal Time clocks on the east wall. Henry gave one lady 2 “Star Finder” planispheres.

Bob counted 38 visitors in Peter Brown’s slide presentation at 3:10 p.m. and 33 visitors in Paul Wiegert’s slide presentation at 3:38 p.m. There was a steady stream of visitors in the “Black Room” and “Period Rooms” as well as on the observing deck upstairs. Parshati estimated that there were 70—75 visitors in all for the afternoon. Solar observing continued until around 5:10 p.m. and the observatory was shut down around 5:50 p.m. after the last visitors left.