Hazy cloudy skies greeted 25 visitors (16 children and 9 adults) from St. George’s Public School Grade-6 class for Exploring the Stars at the Cronyn Observatory, Tuesday, February 10th, 2015, 6:30 p.m. Graduate student Shannon Hicks made the digital slide presentation “Smaller Bits of Our Solar System” and fielded questions. Shannon followed this with the activity “Kitchen Comet”, inviting the students to the table set up at the front of the lecture room where she made a comet from dry ice and other materials.
RASC London Centre was represented by Everett Clark, Bob Duff and Mark Tovey. Everett made ready the big 25.4cm refractor in the dome, installing the 32mm Erfle eyepiece (137X), and Bob set up the London Centre’s 25.4cm Dobsonian (17mm Nagler eyepiece, 66X) on the roof patio outside the dome. When everybody arrived upstairs in the dome Bob gave a brief talk on the history of the Cronyn Observatory and technical aspects of the big 25.4cm refractor. Bob also explained the Standard and Sidereal Time clocks on the east wall. Everett, and later Shannon, supervised as everybody lined up to view Jupiter through the big 25.4 cm refractor (32mm Erfle eyepiece, 137X). Mark also showed them Jupiter in the 25.4cm Dobsonian (17mm Nagler eyepiece, 66X).
Jupiter made a fine sight in both telescopes as it rose in the eastern sky above the billows of steam from the heating plant. The sky gradually cleared from extremely hazy to just a thin haze, revealing the cloud belts on Jupiter’s surface and 3 of the Galilean moons. Everett opened the sky charting software “Starry Night Pro” on the computer, showing Jupiter and 3 Galilean moons—Io, Callisto and Ganymede—to the west (left in the eyepiece) and from nearest to furthest from the planet. The Galilean moon Europa was shown just inside Jupiter’s edge on the east side (right in the telescope) and beginning to transit the planet. Europa would have been visible just inside the right edge of Jupiter’s disk in the telescopes but hazy skies made it impossible to see. Everybody was gone from the dome by 8:25 p.m. with enthusiastic appreciation expressed for a truly enjoyable and informative evening of astronomy.