Exploring the Stars, MEC London, February 7th, 2017

Cloudy skies with rain showers greeted 28 visitors from MEC London (Mount Equipment Co-op) for Exploring the Stars at Western University’s Cronyn Observatory, Tuesday, February 7th, 2017, 8:30 p.m. Graduate student Robin Arnason presented the digital slide presentation “Life in the Universe” and fielded questions. Robin followed this with the “Transit Demonstration” activity. The visitors divided into 2 groups with one group going upstairs into the dome and the other downstairs to see the “Transit Demo” in the “Black Room.”

Downstairs in the “Black Room” Robin gave 2 demonstrations of the “Transit Demo” model, one to each of the 2 groups of visitors, and explained how the transit detection method worked for finding extra-solar planets. A photodiode was clamped to a laboratory stand and linked to a laptop computer, which displayed the dipping light curve as model planets of various sizes revolved around and in front of the lighted model “sun” representing the distant star. It was a very impressive demonstration of the transit detection method for finding extra-solar planets.

RASC London Centre was represented by Everett Clark, Paul Kerans and Bob Duff. Since cloudy skies and rain showers ruled out opening the dome, Bob gave 2 talks, one to each of the 2 groups of visitors, on the history of the Cronyn Observatory and the technical aspects of the big 25.4cm refractor. Bob also pointed out the Schmidt camera and the Cassegrain reflector and the 2 finderscopes all piggybacked on the big 25.4cm refractor. He also showed them the observatory’s 8-inch (20.3cm) Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain (26mm Plossl eyepiece, 77X) and Orion 6-inch (15cm) Newtonian reflector (20mm Plossl eyepiece, 37.5X) with the Sky-Watcher EQ5 mount, set up inside the dome by Everett and Paul, respectively. Bob also explained the Standard and Sidereal Time clocks on the east wall.

Heavy dewing of the eyepieces of the telescopes and the Schmidt-Cassegrain corrector plate made it impossible, until later in the evening, to view the TV screen visible in the windows of the Western Sports & Recreation Center—from out the dome door to the roof patio. Bob set up the London Centre’s 25.4cm Dobsonian (17mm Nagler eyepiece, 66X) inside the dome door to view the red light on the construction crane, although eyepiece dewing made seeing virtually impossible.

Paul showed the visitors his chondrite (stony) and iron meteorites as well as his Moon and Mars meteorite samples in small plastic display cases. Paul had placed his lunar meteorite sample display case in a wooden block with a transparent Lexan polycarbonate sheet cover and he invited visitors to “walk on the Moon.” Paul also brought his Meteorite and Impactite collection is a small black case. The visitors were gone by around 10:36 p.m., after an enjoyable evening learning about astronomy, despite the unfavourable weather.