Exploring the Stars, Covenant Christian School, Grades 5-6, March 27th, 2018

Cloudy skies and rain greeted 31 visitors, including 25 children and 6 adults (one teacher and parents) from the Covenant Christian School (Grades 5-6) in Lambeth, for Exploring the Stars at Western University’s Cronyn Observatory, Tuesday, March 27th, 2018, 10:00 a.m. They were welcomed by graduate students Jeff Vankerkhove and Dan Hatfield. Jeff presented the digital slide presentation “Our Star: The Sun” and fielded questions. This was followed by the “Building Sundial” activity, with Jeff demonstrating how to cut out and assemble a sundial from a pattern on a printed sheet of paper and Dan going around and helping the children as they cut out and assembled their own sundials.

Since cloudy, rainy weather ruled out solar observing, RASC London Centre member Bob Duff installed the observatory’s 90mm Coronado H-Alpha Solar Telescope (CEMAX 25mm eyepiece, 32X) on the Sky-Watcher EQ5 mount and set up the London Centre’s 25.4cm Dobsonian with the 17mm Nagler eyepiece for demonstration inside the dome. Bob also set up the observatory’s Meade 8-inch (20.3cm) Schmidt-Cassegrain (26mm Plossl eyepiece, 77X) inside the dome so as to view the Western Sports & Recreation Center building, through the door to the observation deck.

When everybody arrived upstairs in the dome, Bob gave a talk on some of the history of the observatory and technical aspects of the big 25.4cm refractor, using the 32mm Erfle eyepiece (137X) for demonstration. He also explained how the Schmidt camera worked—demonstrating how the shutter opened and closed—as well as the Cassegrain reflector telescope piggy-backed on the 25.4cm refractor. He explained the difference between a reflector and refractor telescope and showed them the 25.4cm Dobsonian reflector and 20.3cm Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes. Bob briefly explained how the 90mm Coronado H-Alpha telescope was used to observe prominences the Sun. He also explained the 2 clocks on the east wall and the difference between Standard and Sidereal Time. Jeff demonstrated how the 90mm Coronado H-Alpha telescope worked on the computerized Sky-Watcher EQ5 mount and Bob invited the visitors to view the Western Sports & Recreation Center building through the 20.3cm Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.

Dan and Jeff then brought everybody downstairs into the “Black Room” where Dan did the “Transit Demonstration” activity, with the “Transit Demo” model—showing how the transit detection method worked for finding extra-solar planets—as well as the “Spectroscopy Demonstration,” with the visitors putting on diffraction grating glasses to view the spectra of 4 gas discharge lamps, including: hydrogen, helium, neon and mercury.

After the demonstrations in the “Black Room,” Dan and Jeff brought the visitors back into the lecture room and had them fill out feedback forms. The visitors were gone by 11:50 a.m., after an interesting and enjoyable morning learning about the Sun, telescopes, the transit detection method for finding extra-solar planets and spectroscopy.