Cloudy skies with rain greeted more than 200 Grade-8 students with adult leaders from the Early Outreach Conference for a tour of Western University’s Cronyn Observatory, Friday, May 5, 2017, 1:00 p.m. The Early Outreach Conference (REACH) is an annual University Student Council (USC) week-end long conference introducing low-income youth to post-secondary educational opportunities.
The students were divided into 3 groups for the slide lecture, the “Transit Demonstration” in the “Black Room” and a tour of the dome. Professor Jan Cami made 8 presentations of his digital slide presentation “Astronomy at Western” with the title slide “Welcome to the Cronyn Observatory.” Downstairs in the “Black Room”graduate student Jeff Vankerkhove did the“Transit Demonstration” activity, showing them the “Transit Demo” model—demonstrating the transit detection method for finding extra-solar planets.
RASC London Centre members Paul Kerans and Bob Duff gave the tour of the dome, which remained closed due to rain. Paul set up 2 amateur telescopes inside the dome, including the observatory’s 15cm Orion AstroView 6 Equatorial Newtonian reflector on the Sky-Watcher EQ5 mount and the London Centre’s home-built 30.5cm Dobsonian reflector. Bob directed the 30.5cm Dobsonian (17mm Nagler eyepiece, 88X) through the door to the roof patio, so as the view an exhaust chimney support on the east side of the Engineering building. Paul directed the 15cm Newtonian (20mm Plossl eyepiece, 37.5X) so as to view some scaffolding set up in front of the Western Sports & Recreation Center.
As each group of students arrived upstairs in the dome, Bob gave a talk on the history of the Cronyn Observatory and some of the technical aspects of the big 25.4cm refractor, using the 32mm Erfle eyepiece (137X) for demonstration. Bob explained the Cassegrain Reflector telescope and Schmidt Camera piggy-backed on the 25.4cm refractor as well as the 15cm Newtonian and 30.5cm Dobsonian reflector telescopes set up inside the dome. Bob also explained the 2 clocks on the east wall of the observatory and the difference between Standard and Sidereal Time.
Paul explained how the 15cm Newtonian and the EQ5 computerized mount worked and Bob explained how the 30.5cm Dobsonian reflector worked as the students viewed through these amateur telescopes. Paul also explained how the Rigel QuikFinder reflex sight, recently installed on the big 25.4cm refractor, made it easier to locate objects in light polluted skies. The students left the dome around 2:35 p.m. after a very interesting afternoon learning about astronomy at Western University and the Cronyn Observatory.