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Old 19-10-2014, 09:17 AM
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michael_m is offline
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Melbourne
Posts: 11
October 17, NE suburbs
10" dob, 6" dob, 8" cassegrain, 4" refractor

My school held its first Astronomy club viewing night on Friday night, with me as the "expert" in charge of the night (never mind I have been viewing only for the last 4 months ).

We held it at the school, on the basketball courts, with good views to the north, east, and partial views to the west and south (cutting out about 15 deg. above the horizon). Success, as far as I was concerned was having 12 students turn up. We had 40, with about half a dozen parents staying around as well.

The purpose of the evening was not to see much, it was to introduce students to the night sky, identify some constellations, find some of the brighter stars and look at 3 or 4 different DSOs to get a taste of what can be seen.

At about 5 past 8, the first stars and planets started showing through, with Mars and Antares, then Alpha Centauri and Saturn. We had only 4 minutes to see Saturn in the scope before it disappeared behind a tree, but over dozen kids got their first ever view of its rings.

Mars, well, Mars was Mars. They all saw a red disc in the scope, but the excitement was more that it was Mars they were looking at, rather than anything they actually could see.

All students had a skymap from and a list of objects to find - most of them naked eye or binocular. So while others were using the scopes, we located Achernar, A-Crux, Fomalhault, Altair, Hadar and Diphda. A lot of them also used their smartphones with Google Sky or similar on them to work out what they were looking at.

By 8:30, it was dark enough to bring up one of three highlights of the night - M7, Ptolemy's Cluster. It and the Butterfly Cluster were targets that the people there kept going back to.

Other targets soon followed. By 9pm, it was dark enough to pick up the Lagoon and Trifid Nebulas in binoculars, and then I swung the 6" dob around to 47 Tuc, the second highlight of the night. One of the students found M22 in the 8", and then we rounded off the night with two of the scopes on the Silver Coin Galaxy, near Diphda - the third highlight. The concept of seeing another galaxy (no matter how dim or diffuse) was very popular.

My other measure of success for the night was how much conversation and activity there was throughout the night - I didn't need to bring anyone back on to task, or even provide any structure for the night (although I don't think I was silent for more than a minute, with the questions I was being asked by students and parents). Everyone was fully engaged. In the end I had to tell them all to go home. From the feedback, it looks as though we should have similar numbers for next month's viewing session.

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