Cronyn Observatory Public Night, Saturday, June 17th, 2017

Mostly cloudy, later partly clearing skies greeted 26 visitors to Western University’s Cronyn Observatory Summer Public Night, Saturday, June 17th, 2017, 8:30 p.m. Undergraduate student Meet Panchal made his digital slide presentation on “Charles Messier’s Catalog of the Heavens” and fielded questions. Due to technical difficulties, the laptop computer from the “Transit Demo” in the “Black Room” was used for the slide presentation.

RASC London member Bob Duff counted visitors. There were 16 people in the lecture room at the beginning of the slide presentation. More people arrived, including some who joined the slide presentation and 4 who went directly upstairs into the dome and one who arrived later after the lecture. Graduate student Pranav Manangath was “crowd manager” and confirmed some 26 visitors at the end of the evening.

Graduate student Viraja Khatu was telescope operator for the big 25.4cm refractor in the dome. RASC London Centre was represented by Everett Clark, Heather MacIsaac, Henry Leparskas, Bob Duff, Peter Jedicke and Mark Tovey. Everett, Henry and Heather used celestial coordinates provided by the Starry Night Pro software on the computer to locate Jupiter, although it was obscured by clouds. Everett set up the observatory’s 20.3cm Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain (20mm Plossl eyepiece, 100X) inside the dome so as to view the communications tower in south London, through the door to the observation deck (roof patio). Heather also set up her Celestron Go-To 90mm Maksutov (17mm Plossl eyepiece, 73.5X) inside the dome near the door so as to view the communications tower. When everybody arrived upstairs after the slide presentation, Peter gave a talk about the history and technical aspects of the Cronyn Observatory and the 25.4cm refractor. He then invited the visitors to view through the 20.3cm Schmidt-Cassegrain and 90mm Maksutov telescopes supervised by Bob and Heather, respectively.

The skies partly cleared around 9:50 p.m. and Jupiter was glimpsed from the observation deck. Jupiter and later Saturn were observed through the 25.4cm refractor (32mm Erfle eyepiece, 137X). Everett later swapped in the 28mm Meade Super Wide Angle eyepiece (157X) for a better view of Jupiter. Visitors tried taking pictures though the eyepiece with their smartphones and one man took a picture showing Jupiter with 3 of the Galilean moons near the planet. Henry Leparskas later swapped in the 17mm Nagler eyepiece (258X) for an even more impressive view of Jupiter through the 25.4cm refractor.

Henry Leparskas gave visitors tours of the downstairs “1940s Period Room,” a historic recreation (designed by RASC London member Mark Tovey) 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. Henry also showed them the work being done by Mark on the “1967 Period Room,” recreating the early control room of the Elginfield Observatory to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation—Canada 150. When the laptop computer became available after the slide lecture, Henry also gave demonstrations of the “Transit Demo” model—showing how the transit detection method worked for finding extra-solar planets—in the “Black Room.” Henry was later joined by Mark Tovey who did some work in the “1967 Period Room.”

Observing continued until the 11:10 p.m. when the dome was closed down and the RASC London members congregated in the “1940s Period Room” before closing down the observatory and leaving around 11:30 p.m. It was an enjoyable evening of astronomy despite the uncertain weather and partly cloudy sky.