International Observe the Moon Night 2011

posted: 2057 days ago, on Sunday, 2011 Oct 09 at 15:45
tags: astronomy, outreach, Moon, Ed Foster, Kos Coronaios, InOMN.

Stellenbosch

It's 18:15 in the parking lot behind the Stellenbosch Town Hall. Martin and Richard are waiting for me as I arrive fashionably late.

Forty minutes of frantic activity and we're set up. Martin's spiffy 10-inch with piggy-backed refractor sprouts cables that converge on his laptop and digital projector, throwing a huge image of the Moon against a strategically placed wall. Richard and I set up on the other side, his 12-inch Dobsonian on a tracking platform next to my trusty "Maphefo" (an 8-inch Dobby). Banners and posters are on display, and somewhere seven o'clock strikes and the first passers-by are already looking at the Moon.

Not an idle moment. I'm always caught up and swept away by how these things go: when the first group of people congregate around the eyepiece, you can forget about doing anything else. It's a constant stream of twos, threes, and fours, few of whom who have ever looked through a telescope or really "seen" the Moon. The vibe and enthusiasm and mostly genuine wow is like a drug.

I toddle off to buy take-away coffees to support the shop who have kindly let us run a power lead across the road to Martin's scope. Not that there's going to be much time to drink it.

An Iridium flare is scheduled for 20:06; that comes and goes sight-unseen as curious soon-to-be Moongazers line up. I mention that there is a flyby of the International Space Station at 21:19, and the lovely Tanja Hichert and her husband rush off for a quick supper and return just after nine. My cellphone alarm goes off: 5 minutes to go, and panic sets in. We're in a bright, terribly badly-lit parking lot in the middle of the CBD and the ISS will pass into the Earth's shadow at 24 degrees altitude, bearing south-southwest (in the centre of Ara). Is that even visible from here? More panic. Fifteen of us hustle off to what passes for a dark spot. As the minutes rush by it becomes clear that the ISS will be at its brightest behind the buildings of the Mall. #fail. Use the opportunity to point out what can be seen: the curve of the Scorpion's tail, the two Pointers, and the Southern Triangle. Sheesh.

By now, Jupiter has risen, a bright yellow-orange glisten in the direction of Simonsberg. We move back to the telescopes, where Richard is still pointing to the Moon. "Maphefo" is relocated and soon, Jupiter's distorted image hovers in the eyepiece. Three of its massive moons swim into view. Moments later, Io pops into view from behind Jupiter - cool - and all four moons can be enjoyed.

On the other side of the wall, Martin is also locked onto Jupiter. The refractor projects Jupiter and the moons, while through the eyepiece a high-power view shows the planet's pale yellow disk and its two famous rust-coloured belts.

It's getting late and the call is made, and by 23:30 we're packed up. At least 200 views were served up, to folk from all walks of life. Viva astronomy outreach!

Louis Trichard

Kos Coronaios of the Soutpansberg Astronomy Club writes:

Clear skies with a slight breeze made seeing conditions favourable for InOMN 2011 in Louis Trichard, Limpopo Province. The Soutpansberg Astronomy Club set up telescope, data projector and screen outside a popular restaurant at Makhado Crossing, joined by Trappers with a few of their telescopes. By 18:00 we were ready as the first images of the Moon using the tried and trusted Foton AstroCam were projected onto the screen. Information on our closest neighbour in space and astronomy posters were handed out. The three GalileoScopes that were up for grabs were on display and proved a popular attraction for kids and adults as they answered five questions for the lucky draw. One group of enthusiastic youngsters were seen "googling" on their cellular phones to answer one of the multiple choice questions. All in all it was a pleasant evening with a constant stream of visitors attracted by the display. The SAC would like to thank the Zoutpansberger, Jacaranda RMFM, Trappers, Makhado Crossing and all those who lent a helping hand on the evening. Thanks for GalileoScopes and posters courtesy of the South African Astronomical Observatory.

Brackenfell, Cape Town

Ed and Lynnette Foster set up their telescopes outside their patio and invited residents of the housing complex to share the Moon.

"I think everbody enjoyed it," Lynnette wrote, "it was relaxed, we could sit and chat, drink coffee and the highlight of course was that we could do astronomy!"

Ed writes:

"Lynnette and I set up our 10 inch Dobbies, Lorenzo and Kitchi-Koo at about 18:00 and then I went off to have a shower while Jaco Wiese set up his 10-inch Dobby. I had invited everyone in the complex via a note inserted in their post boxes on Thursday and was interested to see how many of the 50 or so inhabitants would pitch up. A previous invitation for a similar event had produced no takers at all so I did not have high expectations.

"I had the laptop and projector set-up under the carport with both Virtual Moon and Stellarium running and eventually Jaco figured out how to switch of the highly irritating security lights in our immediate vicinity, so we could really have it quite dark. We had chairs out under the carport so that anyone interested could sit and look at either Stelarium or Virtual Moon or just sit because they did not want to stand any more. We were all set and waiting for the kickoff at 19:00. At least we had Lynnette and I and Jaco and Jacoline so, at the very worst, we would have three scopes and four observers!

"Our first guest pitched at 18:55, quickly followed by two more at around 19:10 – this was turning into a stampede! Jokes aside, we eventually had the grand total of eight guests, admittedly not all at once, so we weren’t exactly overworked.

"It was, however, possible to talk at length with individuals and explain things in considerable detail. For the explanations I found the quick access to Stellarium and Virtual Moon very handy. Although the projected image did not exactly contribute to dark adaptation it really was useful and next time I will arrange something to screen the telescopes from the projection area.

"The whole show was very relaxed and Lynnette even made coffee for those who were running low on caffeine. This, however, is a benefit that I suspect will not be available if the numbers increase on future occasions. The fact that none of the children living in the complex attended, is a bit of a puzzle, but perhaps if we have these get-togethers on a regular basis we will eventually attract them (and their parents)."

See you all in 2012!

nothing more to see. please move along.