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  #1  
Old 17-04-2018, 08:15 AM
JaseD (Jase)
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Goto’s for an obs night?

Alright, question for the group: What are some things to consider when planning an Obs night for a group of people? Ages 12 - 45 for a school obs night, 2.5 hours of obs time. Must haves are planet, neb/gal, and cluster or binaries, + interesting objs. What are your must haves? Don’t hold back, looking for discussion.
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  #2  
Old 17-04-2018, 09:58 AM
Saturnine (Jeff)
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Hi Jase
It depends on the time of year and the time of the evening that the observing evening is being held and what telescopes are being used. If it soon and is in the early evening, say between 7:00 and 9:00, which I would expect for a school event then by the end of the session Jupiter will be high enough to see detail and its moons.
For binaries, Alpha Cent. Alpha Crucis, Rigel, Alpha Circinus, Nu Carina, H 3945 in Canis Major for colour contrast, Gamma Volans
Clusters, Omega Cent, NGC3532, NGC2516, NGC3293, NGC4755, IC2602.
Neb & Galaxies, M42, Eta Carina Neb, NGC3242 planetary neb, M83, NGC5128 Cent A galaxy.
That should be a good starting point, having done a few school and outreach events along with fellow club members.
Unfortunately Saturn, the planet everyone wants to see, doesn't get high enough until after 10:00 atm.
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  #3  
Old 17-04-2018, 10:12 AM
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Tinderboxsky (Steve)
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The Moon is a must have for children in my experience. Preferably, a 5 to 9 day Moon giving an interesting terminator. A 7 to 9 day Moon will not interfere with other targets as they are all bright enough.
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  #4  
Old 17-04-2018, 10:22 AM
Saturnine (Jeff)
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Yes, the Moon is always popular with school groups, kids and parents. As long as it is not too bright to wash out everything else.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tinderboxsky View Post
The Moon is a must have for children in my experience. Preferably, a 5 to 9 day Moon giving an interesting terminator. A 7 to 9 day Moon will not interfere with other targets as they are all bright enough.
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  #5  
Old 17-04-2018, 01:36 PM
gaseous (Patrick)
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I'm making a big assumption here, but I'm guessing a school outreach night probably won't involve driving and hour or two to a dark site, so galaxies might be difficult to pick up, depending on the size of your scope. Even a very large dob may struggle to get any appreciable galaxy resolution in a suburban setting. The same may be said for planetary nebula as well, and for kids at least may lack the wow factor to grab their interest. As others have suggested, the moon is a good place to start. An OIII or similar filter to pick up NGC3372, NGC 2070 and M42. Omega Centauri and a few of the brighter open clusters around Carina/Crux (Jewel Box, Pearl, Wishing Well, Southern Pleiades). DY Crucis near Beta Crucis is a nice carbon star, and others have given some nice doubles.

There was an article in Astronomy magazine a year or so ago which gave a good rundown on how to operate such a night, and from memory the rule was to keep it to a handful of objects. I could dig it out for you if you wanted. 150 minutes might go very quickly if you're answering a lot of questions, changing eyepieces, or have a lot of people to get through. It also might be worth printing a small list of general housekeeping rules issued prior to the night, mentioning things like insect repellent, no bright lights, getting their eyes dark adapted, etc.
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  #6  
Old 17-04-2018, 07:55 PM
Wavytone (Nick)
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From personal experience schools tend to set the date with little room to move regarding the moon phase. If you are lucky the moon will be 3-4 days old in which case you have the opportunity to show it and still have a few bright galaxies in reach. More moon than that and all DSO's are basically no-go, and all you will have are bright stars, multiple stars, open clusters, globulars and planets. Alternatively if its a moonless evening then the DSOs are on.

In the preamble make clear roll-on insect repellant is a must, together with long sleeves and trousers or jeans to prevent being bitten - but I would insist that sprays MUST NOT be used as these will destroy optical coatings on objectives and coatings.

The scopes have to be onsite set up and ready to rock before the visitors arrive. Those with lengthy set-ups had better get their act together.

Set tripods and eyepieces low to suit the littlies.

Have someone knowledgeable with a laser pointer ready to point out where each target is in the sky, and a few words to say about each object. Challenge the audience by asking them what they know.

Have a short stepladder handy (the folding things from Bunnings with 2 steps) - useful for those who want to rest a hand on something to steady themselves.

Once you know what scopes are coming assign specific targets to suit the scopes, for example if there's a decent mak or large SCT on a tracking mount, use this for planets; use the dobs for DSO's and use refractors for open clusters.

Try to avoid the situation where every scope ends up pointed at Jupiter or Omega Cen, for example.

I'd also print and hand out copies of a "challenge" for the kids to tick off of the top-ten targets for the night, this way those that are interested can google the targets later for themselves or talk about it in class, but make sure the scopes are showing them.

Last edited by Wavytone; 17-04-2018 at 08:23 PM.
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  #7  
Old 17-04-2018, 10:30 PM
JaseD (Jase)
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Further information

Hey Guys,
Thanks for the replies... It's awesome to see people help out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturnine View Post
Hi Jase
It depends on the time of year and the time of the evening that the observing evening is being held and what telescopes are being used. If it soon and is in the early evening, say between 7:00 and 9:00, which I would expect for a school event then by the end of the session Jupiter will be high enough to see detail and its moons.
Sorry I forgot to advise the dates and left out some details to try not to "flavour" the responses. It's in about 12 weeks, and sunset around those days is approximately 1800. Viewing group will arrive at approximately 1900 and I have advised pick up for between 2140 and 2200. There will be two scopes available one is an SCT 8" and one is a 14" dob.*Edit Whoops I forgot my own scope an 8" astrograph newt. so that makes 3* I may be able to secure 4 sets of bino's, it just depends whether my contact with them, is out field or in barracks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gaseous View Post
I'm making a big assumption here, but I'm guessing a school outreach night probably won't involve driving and hour or two to a dark site, so galaxies might be difficult to pick up, depending on the size of your scope. Even a very large dob may struggle to get any appreciable galaxy resolution in a suburban setting.
The location is not a dark site, but is in the 'green zone' or 324 μcd/m2, on the light pollution map. Whilst I shouldn't technically need it, I will have access to an OIII light pol filter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gaseous View Post
There was an article in Astronomy magazine a year or so ago which gave a good rundown on how to operate such a night, and from memory the rule was to keep it to a handful of objects. I could dig it out for you if you wanted. 150 minutes might go very quickly if you're answering a lot of questions, changing eyepieces, or have a lot of people to get through. It also might be worth printing a small list of general housekeeping rules issued prior to the night, mentioning things like insect repellent, no bright lights, getting their eyes dark adapted, etc.
Thanks Patrick, that would be great if you could pull that article. It would be a great help.

Yeah the rules will be spelt out in the days leading up to the event. We live in a mozzie prone area, so I will have repellant. I will be supplying red cellophane to cover their headlights.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tinderboxsky View Post
The Moon is a must have for children in my experience. Preferably, a 5 to 9 day Moon giving an interesting terminator. A 7 to 9 day Moon will not interfere with other targets as they are all bright enough.
The moon is about 3 days old at that point... so depending on the size of the crescent it may or may not be a good txt, but should we have enough I will throw in a moon filter.


Quote:
Originally Posted by gaseous View Post
NGC3372, NGC 2070 and M42. Omega Centauri and a few of the brighter open clusters around Carina/Crux (Jewel Box, Pearl, Wishing Well, Southern Pleiades). DY Crucis near Beta Crucis is a nice carbon star, and others have given some nice doubles.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturnine View Post
For binaries, Alpha Cent. Alpha Crucis, Rigel, Alpha Circinus, Nu Carina, H 3945 in Canis Major for colour contrast, Gamma Volans Clusters, Omega Cent, NGC3532, NGC2516, NGC3293, NGC4755, IC2602.Neb & Galaxies, M42, Eta Carina Neb, NGC3242 planetary neb, M83, NGC5128 Cent A galaxy.
Cheers Jeff and Patrick, they seem like some good tgts... I have some time to check them out first. I do like the idea of the Jewel Box and the wishing well (NGC3532). The Ghost of Jupiter might be an interesting tgt if the light doesn't hinder us. I was thinking Albireo (B. Cyg) for a binary but the H3945 might be slightly better.

Also given the time of the year, Saturn and Jupiter are going to be nearly perfect.


I am considering putting in some planisheres and doing a bit of a competition to allow the kids just look at the sky. I am also going to discuss some aboriginal stories about the sky, including Walu (the sun and a woman) and Ngalindi (the moon and originally a fat man)... these are the Yolngu words for these entities, but other places are similar or the same which is interesting given the different languages and dialects. This brings the Aboriginal kids into the conversation and acknowledges the different stories around the world.

Anyway, thoughts are still appreciated, given I have never put on a night for someone else. It's normally just me and my family looking and we grab the sky walk app, look up using the AR and go yep that looks interesting lets look there.

Cheers
Jase.

Last edited by JaseD; 17-04-2018 at 10:52 PM.
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  #8  
Old 17-04-2018, 10:51 PM
JaseD (Jase)
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Cheers for your response Wavy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wavytone View Post
In the preamble make clear roll-on insect repellant is a must, together with long sleeves and trousers or jeans to prevent being bitten - but I would insist that sprays MUST NOT be used as these will destroy optical coatings on objectives and coatings.
Wow, I have learned something right there... I will make that a must.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wavytone View Post
I'd also print and hand out copies of a "challenge" for the kids to tick off of the top-ten targets for the night, this way those that are interested can google the targets later for themselves or talk about it in class, but make sure the scopes are showing them.
Great minds think alike... I was already planning a "challenge".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wavytone View Post
Try to avoid the situation where every scope ends up pointed at Jupiter or Omega Cen, for example.
Yes... I'm glad you reminded me! I have been on a night when that's exactly what happened, it bored me to tears.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wavytone View Post
From personal experience schools tend to set the date with little room to move regarding the moon phase. If you are lucky the moon will be 3-4 days old in which case you have the opportunity to show it and still have a few bright galaxies in reach. More moon than that and all DSO's are basically no-go, and all you will have are bright stars, multiple stars, open clusters, globulars and planets. Alternatively if its a moonless evening then the DSOs are on.
Yeah, I have two nights I have been given. I said to them, I will suggest a third just in case, but the window is tight. The moon is actually only 3 days old on one night and about 5 on the next available.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wavytone View Post
Set tripods and eyepieces low to suit the littlies.
I have a slight issue with that, because we are above the Trop of Cap in my loc. My scope is on a goto HEQ5 Pro and it's got to have a pier ext. I am just shy of six foot and the EP is above my head whilst standing up; the tripod is absolute zero rise; I only need a single step to get to it but still, it's tall. I will have to make sure we have the step ladders near the scopes.

Thanks again.
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  #9  
Old 18-04-2018, 12:05 AM
Saturnine (Jeff)
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Ok, knowing the approx time of year, early July !, helps make target choices easier. Mars Jupiter and Saturn will all be in good position to point at, which will please the crowd for sure. The Scorpio / Sagittarius clusters and nebula will all be in prime position at that time of year as well, Nebs M8, M20, M16, M17. Clusters M6, M7, M22, M25 M4 and NGC6231.
For doubles, forget H3945, it wil be set by then and Alberio may not be high enough, will have to check the planetarium programs. which puts Beta and Nu Scorpius, Gamma Virginus and Delta Serpens as good targets.
The 3 day old moon may be too low to observe but the 5 day moon would be good without being too bright to wash out DSOs especially if you have a broadband nebula filter or moon & skyglow filter available.
As others have said, keep insect sprays away from anywhere near the telescopes and working with the teachers on a questionaire for the kids is a good idea too. If you have enough telescopes on the night , assigning particular targets to suitable scopes is a good idea, as is the small step ladder for the smaller kids. Is there anyway you could borrow an ordinary Skywatcher tripod for the night instead of your taller pier, may make life on the night easier.
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  #10  
Old 18-04-2018, 10:59 AM
gaseous (Patrick)
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This is not the article I referred to, but it has good info nonetheless.


http://www.astronomy.com/observing/a...s-of-observing
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