Summer Academic Writing Clinic, Evening Observing at the Cronyn Observatory, August 2nd, 2017

A cloudy, later partly clearing hazy sky greeted 38 visitors (students and staff members) from the Summer Academic Writing Clinic for incoming first-year students, for evening observing at Western University’s Cronyn Observatory, Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017, 8:30 p.m. Professor Robert Cockcroft made the digital slide presentation “Celestial Bear: The Six Nations’ Night Sky” and fielded questions. This was followed by the visitors dividing into groups for tours of the downstairs “Black Room” and observing in the dome.

Professor Robert Cockcroft brought one group of 20 visitors downstairs into the “Black Room,” where he showed them the “Transit Demo” model—demonstrating the transit detection method for finding extra-solar planets—and the “Spectroscopy Demo,” inviting the visitors to put on diffraction grating glasses and view the spectra of 4 gas discharge lamps set up on the table, including: hydrogen, helium, neon and mercury. The other group of 18 visitors went upstairs into the dome.

Graduate student Amanda DeSouza was telescope operator for the big 25.4cm refractor in the dome, which at first remained closed due to the uncertain weather. RASC London Centre was represented by Heather MacIsaac and Bob Duff. Amanda, Heather and Bob set up 4 amateur telescopes inside the dome. Graduate student Richard Bloch and Bob set up the London Centre’s home-built 30.5cm Dobsonian (18mm Radian eyepiece, 83X) inside the dome for demonstration. Heather and Amanda set up the London Centre’s 25.4cm Dobsonian (17mm Nagler eyepiece, 66X), just inside the door to the observation deck, as well as the observatory’s Meade 20.3cm Schmidt-Cassegrain (20mm Plossl eyepiece, 100X) so as to view the communications tower in south London. Heather also set up her Celestron NexStar 90SLT 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrain (32mm Plossl eyepiece, 39X) so as to view the communications tower.

Bob gave 2 talks, one to each of the 2 groups of visitors as they arrived in the dome, on the history of the observatory and technical aspects of the big 25.4cm refractor. He called their attention to the Cassegrain reflector telescope and Schmidt camera, piggy-backed on the main telescope; as well as the Dobsonian reflector, Schmidt-Cassegrain and Maksutov telescopes set up inside the dome, and explained the difference between a refractor and reflector telescope. Bob also explained the 2 clocks on the east wall and the difference between Standard and Sidereal Time. The students were invited to view the communications tower through the Schmidt-Cassegrain and Heather’s Maksutov telescope.

The sky began to clear and the 3-day-past-first-quarter gibbous Moon became visible through the hazy clouds, as Bob finished his talk to the first group of visitors. Amanda and Richard directed the 25.4cm refractor towards the Moon and the 25.4cm Dobsonian (17mm Nagler eyepiece, 66X) was taken outside on to the observation deck. Amanda and Bob supervised as the visitors viewed the Moon and Saturn through the 25.4cm Dobsonian (17mm Nagler eyepiece, 66X). Bob later swapped in the 6mm Ortho eyepiece (186X) for a better view of Saturn through the 25.4cm Dobsonian. Heather supervised as the visitors viewed the Moon through the 25.4cm refractor (Meade 28mm Super Wide Angle eyepiece, 157X).

There was just 4 visitors for the second demonstration in the “Black Room,” although both groups in the dome were well attended. The visitors were gone by 10:00 p.m. after expressing their appreciation for an interesting enjoyable evening of astronomy.