Clear skies with some clouds greeted 2 groups totaling 40 visitors from the OACUHO 2016 Spring Conference to Western University’s Cronyn Observatory, Monday, May 30th, 2016, arriving 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., respectively. The visitors were from the Ontario Association of College and University Housing Officers 2016 Spring Conference, being held May 30th—June 2nd, 2016 at Western University. There were 18 visitors in each group and 4 later arrivals after the second group for a total of 40 visitors from the conference.
RASC London Centre member Peter Jedicke reported an additional 12 people, not associated with the conference, viewed through London Centre member Paul Kerans’ 22-inch (56cm) Obsession Truss-Tube Dobsonian set up on the concrete brick walkway on the south side of the Cronyn Observatory. This brings the total to 52 visitors for astronomy public outreach.
Cronyn Observatory Director Professor Jan Cami made a brief slide presentation “Astronomy at the Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory” to the first group of 18 visitors, which included Columbia University faculty member and former Astronomy Department Chair David Helfand, who also served as President of Quest University Canada, 2007—2015, and President of the American Astronomical Society, 2012—2014.
This was followed by a tour downstairs of the “Black Room,” with the “Transit Demo” model set up, and the “Period Room,” recreating Dr. H. R. Kingston’s 1940 office with his brass refractor and the Sotellunium—a mechanical eclipse demonstration model built by W. G. Colgrove—on display. RASC London Centre member Mark Tovey who designed the “Period Room,” based on a 1940 photograph for the Cronyn Observatory’s 75th Anniversary, celebrated October 24th / 25th, 2016, was there along with Tricia Colvin to greet the visitors. Jan gave a brief talk and some of the visitors signed the guest book! The visitors were then brought upstairs into the dome where Jan gave another brief talk and invited them to view through the big 25.4cm refractor and amateur telescopes. Both groups of visitors received the slide presentation and tour, arriving in the dome at 9:50 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., respectively.
There were 8 RASC London Centre members assisting in the observatory and with amateur telescopes, including Everett Clark, Heather MacIsaac, Bob Duff, Paul Kerans, Steve Gauthier, Peter Jedicke, Tricia Colvin and Mark Tovey. Physics and Astronomy staff member Henry Leparskas was first to arrive, opening the dome for cooling, setting up the vintage 1940 radio “donation box” (which ultimately wasn’t needed) and helping set up the “Period Room” and lecture room. Peter Jedicke called everybody’s attention to an ISS pass travelling from west to northeast, between 9:11—9:17 p.m., reaching an altitude of 62 degrees above the southeast horizon.
Considerable attention was directed towards Mars, which was at opposition on May 22nd and its closest approach to Earth on May 30th, showing an 18.6 arc second disk. Jan directed the big 25.4cm refractor towards Jupiter and, with Bob Duff’s assistance, swapped in the 18mm Radian (244X) eyepiece in place of the 32mm Erfle (137X) for a better view. Steve Gauthier’s 15mm Panoptic (292X) and 9mm Nagler (487X) gave impressive views of Mars in the 25.4cm refractor with and without his No. 21 orange filter. Everett Clark ran the 25.4cm refractor for most of the evening.
Jupiter a made splendid sights in the London Centre’s 25.4cm Dobsonian through Bob’s 7mm Nagler (159X). Steve showed visitors Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and M57 through the 25.4cm Dobsonian, using his 9mm Nagler (124X) and 15mm (74X) Panoptic eyepieces, with and without his No. 21 orange filter on Mars and Jupiter. Steve also used his Orion Shorty 2X Barlow lens with the 9mm Nagler (248X) to view Jupiter and Mars in the 25.4cm Dobsonian. Tricia showed visitors Jupiter and Mars through the observatory’s Meade 8-inch (20.3cm) Schmidt-Cassegrain (12.5mm Ortho eyepiece, 160X) before joining Mark downstairs in the “Period Room,” with undergraduate student William Hyland taking over the Schmidt-Cassegrain to show people Jupiter, Mars and Saturn, as cloud cover shifted. Heather MacIsaac showed visitors Jupiter and Mars through her Celestron Go-To 90mm Maksutov telescope (17mm Plossl eyepiece, 73.5X).
On the walkway on the south side of the observatory Paul Kerans showed the visitors Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, M13 and M57, through his 22-inch (56cm) Obsession Truss-Tube Dobsonian with his 21mm (128X) and 13mm (207X) Ethos eyepieces.
Observing continued with the big 25.4cm refractor in the dome with impressive views of Mars using Steve’s 15mm Panoptic (292X) and 9mm Nagler (487X) before the observatory was closed down around 12:35 a.m. We were very fortunate to have such a clear night for the Mars closest approach to Earth on May 30th, 2016.