Cronyn Observatory Public Night, Saturday, July 18th, 2015

Mostly cloudy, hazy skies greeted some 70 visitors to Western University’s Cronyn Observatory Public Night, Saturday, July 18th, 2015, 8:30 p.m. Professor Sarah Gallagher made the first of her 2 digital slide presentations, “On Top of the Mountain All Covered with Ash: An Astronomer at the Telescope”, before an audience increasing to more than 50 people, with 59 arrivals at the Observatory by 9:15 p.m. She followed this with her second presentation, “Highlights from the New Horizons Flyby”, after inviting everybody to take a break and visit the dome. There were an estimated 70 visitors by the end of the evening.

Graduate student Jeff Vankerkhove was telescope operator for the big 25.4cm refractor in the dome. RASC London Centre was represented Bob Duff, Dale Armstrong, Tricia Colvin and Mark Tovey. London Centre member Richard Gibbens listened to the slide lecture and later showed up on the roof patio outside the dome. Physics and Astronomy Department computer resources person and RASC member Henry Leparskas was also there.

When people had arrived upstairs after Professor Sarah Gallagher’s first slide presentation, Bob gave a brief talk about the history of the Cronyn Observatory and technical aspects of the big 25.4cm refractor in the dome. Bob also explained the Standard and Sidereal Time clocks on the east wall of the dome. Since it was mostly cloudy, Jeff invited visitors to view the lights on the communications tower in south London through the big 25.4cm refractor, using the 32mm Erfle eyepiece (137X). The NASA Web site on the New Horizons spacecraft flyby of Pluto was also opened on the dome computer for people to view highlights of the mission, including a short close-up video of Pluto’s surface.

On the roof patio outside the dome, Dale operated the Observatory’s 8-inch (20.3cm) Meade 2080/LX3 Schmidt-Cassegrain, showing visitors the communications tower, using the 26mm Plossl eyepiece (77X); Saturn, using the 15mm Sky-Watcher Ultra-Wide eyepiece and 2X Barlow lens (266X); and Epsilon Lyrae and Vega (77X). The 2X Barlow lens was from the 90mm Coronado H-Alpha Solar Telescope. 

Tricia and Mark showed visitors the wind turbine on the Engineering building and later Vega in the London Centre’s 25.4cm Dobsonian (17mm Nagler eyepiece, 66X). Bob later took over the 25.4cm Dobsonian, talking to a few visitors and showing them Vega in the telescope. Bob talked to people throughout the evening, and showed several visitors the Pluto flyby video on the NASA New Horizons spacecraft Web site displayed on the dome computer. The Observatory was closed down around 11:00 p.m. after a very interesting evening of slide presentations and some observing through telescopes despite the mostly cloudy sky.