Exploring the Stars, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School, November 22nd, 2017

Cloudy skies greeted 7 visitors (including 6 students and one teacher) from St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School for Exploring the Stars at Western University’s Cronyn Observatory, Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017, 6:00 p.m. (The 6 students included 3 in Grade-9 and 3 in Grade-10.) Graduate student Jeff Vankerkhove presented the slide presentation “Life in the Universe” and fielded questions. Jeff followed this with the activity “Telescope Kits,” showing several slides from the slide presentation “Telescopes,” and distributing simple telescopes, already assembled from the small reusable kits, for the students examine and answer question.

RASC London Centre was represented by Everett Clark and Bob Duff. Since cloudy skies 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. When everybody arrived upstairs in the dome, Bob gave a talk 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.

Bob hauled out the London Centre’s 25.4cm Dobsonian from the storage room to show them how a classical Newtonian reflector telescope worked. The students asked questions and viewed the TV screen in the Western Sports & Recreation Center through the 20.3cm Schmidt-Cassegrain. The students were gone by around 7:30 p.m., and Bob and Jeff showed the teacher the “1940s Period Room,” and the “Transit Demo” and “Spectroscopy Demo” in the “Black Room,” to consider for future class visits. The observatory was closed around 8:00 p.m.