Exploring the Stars, 97th Scouts of London, January 21st, 2016

Mostly cloudy skies greeted 15 visitors (8 children and 7 adults / leaders) from the 97th Scouts of London for Exploring the Stars at Western University’s Cronyn Observatory, Thursday, January 21st, 2016, 7:00 p.m. Graduate student Shannon Hicks presented the digital slide presentation “Life in the Universe” and fielded questions. Shannon followed this with the activity “Transit Demo”, and invited the Scouts to the table at the front of the room where she had set up the “Transit Demo” model of an extra-solar planetary system on a turntable with an electrically lighted “sun” in the middle. A photodiode was clamped to a laboratory stand and linked to a laptop computer, which displayed the dipping light curve as the model planet revolved around and in front of the lighted model sun. The lecture room was darkened with the lights turned off for this very impressive demonstration of how the transit detection method worked for finding extra-solar planets.

RASC London Centre was represented by Everett Clark, Paul Kerans and Bob Duff. When everybody arrived upstairs Bob gave a talk on the history of the Cronyn Observatory and some of the technical aspects of the big 25.4cm refractor. Bob also explained the Standard and Sidereal Time clocks on the east wall. Shannon and Everett showed the Scouts the 5-day-past-first quarter gibbous Moon visible through hazy clouds in the 25.4cm refractor, using the 32mm Erfle eyepiece (137X), with Everett swapping in the 28mm Meade Super Wide Angle eyepiece (157X) towards the end of the evening. On the roof patio outside the dome Bob showed the visitors the Moon through the London Centre’s 25.4cm Dobsonian (17mm Nagler eyepiece, 66X). Paul set up his Nikon 10 X 50mm binoculars on his Orion Parallelogram Mount and tripod along with a reclining folding chair and invited the Scouts to view the Moon.

The visitors took about 4 of the “Getting Started in Astronomy” (RASC, SkyNews [2015]) pamphlets and several “Moon Gazers’ Guide” cards and “Secrets of the Night Sky” (CSA) sky charts, as well as the small 7cm X 9cm “International Year of Astronomy 2009” cards featuring images of the planets and other celestial objects from the educational materials laid out on the table beside the computer in the dome by Everett and Paul. The visitors asked many questions and were gone by around 9:00 p.m. after expressing their thanks for a very enjoyable evening of astronomy.