Exploring the Stars, Matthews Hall STEM Club, November 2nd, 2017

Cloudy skies with some light rain greeted 48 visitors (23 children and 25 adults) from the Matthews Hall School STEM Club, for Exploring the Stars at Western University’s Cronyn Observatory, Thursday, November 2nd, 2017, 6:30 p.m. They were welcomed by graduate students Viraja Khatu and Amanda DeSouza. Viraja presented the digital slide presentation The Stuff of Stars and fielded questions. This was followed with the “Constellations Activity” with Viraja and Amanda distributing some 24 “Star Finder” planispheres to the children and the teacher, and then helping them put together the planispheres with adhesive tape. Viraja then demonstrated to the visitors how to use the planispheres.

The visitors were then divided 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 demonstrations of the “Transit Demo” and “Spectroscopy Demo.” The 2 groups then traded places between the dome and the downstairs “Black Room.”

Downstairs in the “Black Room” Viraja did the Transit Demonstration activity, showing them the “Transit Demo” model—demonstrating the transit detection method for finding extra-solar planets. Amanda 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. Viraja and Amanda gave 2 demonstrations of the “Transit Demo” and “Spectroscopy Demo,” one to each group.

Since cloudy damp weather ruled out opening the dome, Everett set up the observatory’s 8-inch (20.3cm) Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain (20mm Plossl eyepiece, 100X) 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 as they arrived upstairs, on the history of the Cronyn Observatory and technical aspects of the 25.4cm refractor, including the Cassegrain Reflector telescope and Schmidt Camera piggy-backed on the main telescope. Bob also explained the 2 clocks on the observatory’s east wall and the difference between Standard and Sidereal Time.

The children and adults lined up to view through the 20.3cm Schmidt-Cassegrain and asked many questions of Everett and Bob. The visitors were gone by around 8:30 p.m. after an enjoyable evening learning about astronomy and telescopes despite the cloudy, rainy weather.