Exploring the Stars, Northdale Central Public School, January 30th, 2013

Graduate student Emily McCullough greeted 43 visitors from the Northdale Central Public School Grade-6 class (Dorchester) at the Cronyn Observatory for Exploring the Stars on Wednesday, January 30th, 7:00 p.m. Two more adults arrived around 8:15 p.m. for a total of 45 visitors (20 children and 25 adults). Emily made the digital slide presentation, “The Solar System.”

This was followed with the activity, “Kitchen Comet.” Emily invited the students to the table at the front of the lecture room and involved the children in making a comet from dry ice, water, dirt and non-toxic glue (hydrocarbons). Clouds of CO2 vapour made for a convincing comet.

Bringing the group upstairs Emily gave them a tour and demonstration of the big 25.4cm refractor. She also showed them how the Schmidt camera, mounted piggy-back on the big refractor, worked by rotating the shutter. She explained how photographic plates were developed in the darkroom. Emily also showed them the large photographic mosaic of the Moon, displayed in a picture frame, which she brought out of the darkroom (in the dome and now used for storage).

It was cloudy with occasional misty rain but Emily opened the dome when it was not raining. She directed the big 25.4cm refractor (52mm Erfle eyepiece, 84X), eventually locating lights on the southern horizon through the haze. This was possibly the communications tower in south London. She invited the children and adults to view the lights through the big refractor.

RASC London Centre Everett Clark directed the Observatory’s Meade 8-inch (20.3cm) Schmidt-Cassegrain out the door and towards the weathervane on the roof of the Engineering building. RASC London Centre member Bob Duff showed the students views of the weathervane through the Schmidt-Cassegrain, which was fitted with the 26mm Plossl eyepiece (77X).

There were thoughtful questions by students about astronomy and viewing lights on the horizon through the big refractor continued past 9:00 p.m. as people started to leave. Everybody was gone by around 9:30 p.m., after expressing their appreciation for a very interesting evening.

Bob Duff
Higher Education Liaison
RASC London Centre