Cronyn Observatory Public Night, Saturday, May 7th, 2016

Cloudy, later clearing, skies greeted 57 visitors (43 adults and 14 children) to Western University’s Cronyn Observatory Summer Public Night, Saturday, May 7th, 2015, 8:30 p.m. Professor Jan Cami made 2 presentations of his digital slide presentation “The Transit of Mercury of May 9, 2016,” with the second presentation at 10:00—10:30 p.m. This was in anticipation of the “Mercury Transit” special event at the Cronyn Observatory, Monday, May 9th, 2016.

Downstairs in the “Dark Room” Professor Els Peeters used the “Transit Demo” model of an extra-solar planetary system on a turntable with an electrically lighted “sun” in the middle to explain how we viewed the transit of Mercury across the Sun from Earth. She also used it to explain how the transit detection method worked for finding extra-solar planets. A photodiode was clamped to a laboratory stand and linked to a laptop computer, which displayed the dipping light curve as model planets of various sizes revolved around and in front of the lighted model sun. It was a very impressive demonstration of the transit detection method for finding extra-solar planets. Undergraduate student William Hyland helped in the “Period Room” where historical artefacts were on display.

Upstairs in the dome, graduate student Dilini Subasinghe showed visitors the communications tower in south London through the big 25.4cm refractor (32mm Erfle eyepiece, 137X). The sky cleared around 9:00 p.m. and Dilini swapped in the 28mm Meade Super Wide Angle eyepiece (157X) to show visitors Jupiter through the 25.4cm refractor.

RASC London Centre was represented by Everett Clark, Paul Kerans, Dale Armstrong, Peter Jedicke and Steve Gauthier, along with Heather MacIsaac, a previously unattached RASC member who recently joined the London Centre. London Centre member Richard Gibbens was also there and listened to the slide lecture. On the roof patio outside the dome Steve showed visitors Jupiter and the globular cluster M13 through the London Centre’s 25.4cm Dobsonian (17mm Nagler eyepiece, 66X). Heather set up her Celestron Go-To 90mm Maksutov (25mm Plossl eyepiece, 50X) to also show visitors Jupiter and M13. Peter and Paul helped supervise and talked with the visitors. There were 5 “Moon Gazers’ Guide” cards distributed to interested visitors. 

It was a very enjoyable evening for all concerned with the downstairs “Transit Demo” and the “Period Room” a particular hit with visitors. The observatory was closed down around 11:00 p.m.