Exploring the Stars, Lester B. Pearson School for the Arts, November 21st, 2017

A cloudy sky with rain greeted 59 visitors (42 children and 17 adults) from the Lester B. Pearson School for the Arts (Grade 6), for Exploring the Stars at Western University’s Cronyn Observatory, Tuesday, November 21st, 2017, 7:00 p.m. They were welcomed by graduate students Jeff Vankerkhove and Daniel Hatfield. Jeff presented the digital slide presentation “Our Solar System” and fielded questions. He followed this with the activity “Kitchen Comet,” making a comet from dry ice and other materials on a table at the front of the lecture room.

Jeff then divided the visitors into 2 groups with one group going upstairs for a tour of the dome with RASC London Centre members Everett Clark and Bob Duff, and the other downstairs into the “Black Room” for the “Spectroscopy Demo.” The 2 groups then traded places between the dome and the downstairs “Black Room.”

Downstairs in the “Black Room” Jeff did the “Spectroscopy Demo,” with the visitors putting on diffraction grating glasses to view the spectra of 4 gas discharge lamps set out on the table, including: hydrogen, helium, neon and mercury. The “1940s Period Room,” a recreation of Dr. H. R. Kingston’s 1940 office designed by RASC London Centre member Mark Tovey, was also open for inspection. Jeff gave 2 demonstrations of the “Spectroscopy Demo,” one to each group.

Since cloudy, rainy weather ruled out opening the dome, Everett set up the observatory’s 8-inch (20.3cm) Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain (26mm Plossl eyepiece, 77X) inside the dome so as to view the TV screen in the Western Sports & Recreation Center windows, through the door to the observation deck. Bob gave 2 talks, one to each group when they arrived upstairs, on the history of the Cronyn Observatory and technical aspects of the big 25.4cm refractor, explaining the difference between a refractor and reflector telescope and calling their attention to the Cassegrain reflector and Schmidt camera piggy-backed on the main telescope, as well as the 20.3cm Schmidt-Cassegrain set up inside the dome. Bob also explained the 2 clocks on the observatory’s east wall and the difference between Standard and Sidereal Time.

The visitors asked many questions as they lined up to view though the 20.3cm Schmidt-Cassegrain and were gone by 9:00 p.m., after an enjoyable evening learning about the solar system, comets, spectroscopy and telescopes.