Cronyn Observatory Public Night, Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Clear skies greeted visitors to Western University’s Cronyn Observatory Summer Public Night, Saturday, August 9th, 2014, 8:30 p.m. Graduate student Laura Lenkic made 3 presentations of her digital slide presentation “The Perseid Meteor Shower; Plus: The Russian Meteor of February 2013”.  Undergraduate student Nathalie Thibert was crowd manager and counted visitors, there being 60 people at the beginning of the first slide presentation, some 90 people by 9:15 p.m., and an estimated total of 172 visitors by 10:35 p.m.

The showpiece of the evening was the much publicized “Supermoon”—the largest full Moon of 2014 at perigee 359,896 km, August 10th. (See: Observer’s Handbook 2014, page 113.) Faculty member Dr. John de Bruyn was telescope operator for the big 25.4cm refractor in the dome and began showing visitors the Moon, still low in the east, around 8:48 p.m., using the 32mm Erfle eyepiece (137X). He soon swapped in the 18mm Radian eyepiece (244X) to show people Saturn and then the Moon again. He was assisted later in the evening by graduate student Emily McCullough. Physics and Astronomy Computer Resources person Henry Leparskas was also there.

RASC London Centre was represented by Bob Duff, Mark Tovey, Steve Imrie and Everett Clark. London Centre member Richard Gibbens was also there and listened to the lecture. Mark set up the Observatory’s 8-inch (20.3cm) Meade 2080/LX3 Schmidt-Cassegrain on the roof patio outside the dome and showed visitors the Moon throughout the evening, using the 26mm Plossl (77X) and later 20mm (100X) Plossl eyepieces. Graduate student Emily McCullough helped Mark set up the Schmidt-Cassegrain and supervised visitors for a while before assisting Dr. John de Bruyn with the big 25.4cm refractor in the dome. Bob brought out the Observatory’s 1.25-inch Baader Neutral Density filter and this reduced the Moon’s brightness to a comfortable level in the Schmidt-Cassegrain (100X).

Steve took charge of the RASC London Centre’s 25.4cm Dobsonian, showing visitors the Moon, using the 17mm Nagler eyepiece (66X). Bob combined the Observatory’s 18mm Ortho eyepiece and the 2X Barlow lens from the Coronado telescope (124X) in the 25.4cm Dobsonian, enabling Steve to show visitors Saturn and the Moon at greater magnification.

A young lady visitor and her father set up their 90mm Celestron NexStar 90SLT Maksutov computerized telescope on the roof patio and Everett helped them learn how to polar align it and use the Go-To system. They viewed the Moon through the NexStar, using the Observatory’s 12.5mm Ortho eyepiece (100X), and showed visitors Saturn and the Moon, using a 25mm Plossl eyepiece (50X) and Saturn again using the 12.5mm Ortho eyepiece (100X).

Bob called everybody’s attention to 2 ISS passes (listed on the Heavens Above, ISS – Visible Passes Web site), with the first travelling from west to northeast, around 9:10—9:16 p.m., reaching a maximum 32 degrees altitude (~9:13 p.m.) and the second travelling from northwest to northeast, around 10:48—10:53 p.m., reaching a maximum 18 degrees altitude (~10:50 p.m.). A large crowd including Henry Leparskas and Bob gathered outside the entrance of the Cronyn Observatory for the first (9:10 p.m.) ISS pass and a somewhat smaller crowd turned out for the second (10:48 p.m.) ISS pass. Henry and some other people also viewed the Iridium 18 satellite flare at 10:04:53 p.m. (altitude 55 degrees) in the east-northeast (listed on the Heavens Above, Iridium Flares Web site) on the front lawn outside the Observatory.

Public observing continued well past the closing time of 11:00 p.m. until 12 midnight and it was 12:15 a.m. before the Cronyn was finally closed down after very successful evening of astronomy.