Cronyn Observatory Public Night, Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Mostly clear skies greeted visitors to the Cronyn Observatory Summer Public Night, Saturday, May 31st, 2014, 8:30 p.m. Visiting professor Dr. Duncan Steel made his digital slide presentation We’re All Going to Die! A Light-hearted View of Asteroid & Comet Impacts with some 27 people having arrived by 8:45 p.m., including several who went upstairs into the dome. Graduate student Jessie Silaj was crowd manager and she counted 48 or more people by 10:10 p.m. There may have been an estimated 54 visitors by the end of the evening.

RASC London Centre was well represented by Bob Duff, Dale Armstrong, Steve Imrie, Peter Jedicke and Everett Clark. London Centre member Richard Gibbens was also there and listened to the lecture. Dr. Margaret Campbell-Brown was telescope operator for the evening and soon directed the big 25.4cm refractor towards the 3-day-past-New crescent Moon, which made a pleasing sight in the 18mm Radian eyepiece (244X) as the sky darkened. She later moved the telescope to Jupiter, which had just 3 Galilean moons—Europa, Ganymede and Callisto—visible, with Io transiting the planet and not discernable. Peter Jedicke assisted later in the evening with moving the big 25.4cm refractor towards Saturn, which made a spectacular sight for visitors through the 18mm Radian eyepiece (244X).

On the roof patio Steve showed visitors the Moon through the London Centre’s 25.4cm Dobsonian (17mm Nagler eyepiece, 66X). Bob soon swapped in the 6mm Ortho eyepiece (186X) for good views of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn through the 25.4cm Dobsonian. Dale operated the Observatory’s 8-inch (20.3cm) Meade 2080/LX3 Schmidt-Cassegrain showing people Mars, using the 12.5mm Ortho eyepiece (160X). Bob later added the 2X Barlow lens from the Coronado telescope, for a surprisingly detailed image of Mars in the Schmidt-Cassegrain, with the magnification doubled to 320X. Dale later moved the Schmidt-Cassegrain to Saturn (320X) and swapped in the 15mm Sky-Watcher UltraWide eyepiece (133X) for a lower power view of the ringed planet before showing visitors globular cluster M13.

The visitors were gone by around 11:00 p.m. and Physics & Astronomy Department computer resources person Henry Leparskas held a photo-op in the dome for all the volunteers including the graduate students, Dr. Margaret Campbell-Brown, the RASC London Centre members and, finally, Henry himself with the help of the timer on the tripod-mounted camera. It was an excellent evening of astronomy with clear skies and good seeing.