Saturday, October 29, 2011

Columbia College, Chicago, 4 OCT 2011

Do yourself a favor: read the full story and see all the pictures at Chicago Astronomer.

You're still here? Thanks, but you're missing out.


Sometime this past summer, the Museum of Contemporary Photography of Chicago's Columbia College contacted Chicago Astronomer Joe Guzman about a joint observation. Joe then asked me to participate, and I was honored to be asked. Originally scheduled for September 8 to coincide with the opening of the exhibit "Our Origins," it was pushed back to October 4 due to weather. The October session was tied into a talk by Kathryn Schaffer, PhD, entitled, "Beyond Visibility: Photography and our Connection to the Cosmos." After the lecture, guests would be invited to cross Michigan Avenue to Grant Park, where Joe and I would be showcasing the 8 day old Moon, and later Jupiter.

The plan was for me to meet Joe at his house, load my equipment into his van, and carpool to the downtown college. I arrived in the city way too early, so I drove downtown to try to get a glimpse of the observation site. When I finally turned onto Michigan Ave., it was from Harrison St. I didn't know it, but we later set up right across the street. As I was sitting at the light waiting to turn, I saw Chicago Astronomer Steve come around the corner. I honked and waved, but he didn't see me. What are the odds?

I showed up at Joe's house just in time to transfer my equipment and get to the college. Chicago Astronomer Support Crew Barbara and our Columbia College liaison Corrine were waiting for us on the southeast corner of Michigan & Harrison. Joe double parked on the street long enough for us to unload the gear, then left to park his van at the school parking lot. When he returned, he hurried to set up his scope, as my Dobsonian was ready to go in just the few minutes Joe was gone.


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What a backdrop! Michigan Ave, the Magnificent Mile! Grant Park!


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Two Chicago Astronomers, ready to show other worlds to the city. Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


Right away there was a small crowd eager to see the Moon. We always get good crowds when we set up near Adler Planetarium, but this was different. The college students were full of energy, and were especially eager to soak up any insight we could provide, and gather plenty of lunar photons to their eyes. The enthusiasm was contagious, as passersby on Michigan Ave. stopped to get in on the action. Even they were more attentive than the more relaxed and casual visitors we encounter near Adler.


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Right away I had an audience ready to see the Moon. Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.

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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


The night before, I noticed that libration had rotated the visual western limb towards us, allowing a small peek onto the "far side" of the Moon. I pointed this out at every chance, and used my 3' laminated lunar map to show what to look for.


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A favorable libration let us see the "far" side of the Moon.


Since early in the observing season, Barbara has been at many Chicago Astronomer sessions, making first contact with many visitors, allowing those of us with telecopes to attend directly to those looking through our scopes at the moment. I know she's done a great job facilitating viewing, but I finally had a chance to really notice it. Despite the almost non-stop viewing at my telescope, I was able to see Barbara pulling in the crowd, engaging them, and directing people to our telescopes. She allowed Joe and I to stay focused on the  individual observing experience, instead of being pulled in many different directions at one time. Big thanks to Barbara for her effort.


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Having Barbara on site to assist is a tremendous help.


Chicago Astronomer Tom dropped by for awhile, and helped document the event.


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Tom got his camera ready while I changed eyepieces. Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Tom Lee.


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Photo credit: Tom Lee.


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Photo credit: Tom Lee.


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Photo credit: Tom Lee.


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Photo credit: Tom Lee.


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Photo credit: Tom Lee.


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Photo credit: Tom Lee.


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Photo credit: Tom Lee.


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Photo credit: Tom Lee.


And of course, Chicago Police always come see what's going on. We're glad they do.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


Since most of our early visitors were aware that Jupiter would rise to visibility around 8:15, many waited around to see it. When it finally cleared a distant tree, I re-positioned my Dob a few feet south to get a clear view. We lost the Moon to the skyscrapers across the street soon after Jupiter rose, but for a few minutes I was able to go back and forth between them with ease. Joe wasn't so lucky. He had an obstructed view to the east, and we had to drag the C11 Beast a few feet so that he could capture the Jovian system.

Jupiter has always been my favorite planet to observe. Saturn and it's glorious rings are the obvious crowd pleasers, but with our especially attentive audience, the Jovian system was a joy to show off. It's low position in the sky didn't allow for good high magnification viewing, but at low power Jupiter was looking darn impressive. And those four little dots accompanying the gas giant got plenty of attention too, especially when I stated that their sizes roughly compare to our own Moon.


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Just before we lost the Moon behind the skyscrapers across Michigan Ave. For a few minutes I was able to go back and forth between Jupiter and Luna, but not for long.


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After the Moon dropped behind the skyline.


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We had to move the C11 a few feet so Joe could show Jupiter through the obstruction.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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By 9 PM, Corrine had told us that our obligation to the college was met, and that we could stay as long as we wished, or until the park closed. By that time, foot traffic was thinning out, and we decided to break down the site not long after 9:00. Joe and I parted ways with Barbara when her bus came, then we left too. To celebrate a successful observation with 78 visitors, Joe treated me to my first Maxwell St. hot dog. (If you have a Chicago style hot dog, chances are it's copying the famous Maxwell St. dogs). We sat there discussing how we got involved in public astronomy, and the future of the Chicago Astronomer organization. We both see big things ahead, but it will take a lot of work. The payoff, though, could be well worth it.


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Joe with Corrine, the organizer from Columbia College. Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Photo credit: Tom Lee.


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L-R: Joe, me, Barbara. The crew getting ready to wrap up a fun night. Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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Just before I dig in to my first Maxwell St. dog. Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


As Joe drove back to his house, he took me past a few locations that might be promising observation sites someday. After loading my equipment into my car, we hung around in the alley for a few minutes. Joe showed me the marks on the ground where he set up the C11 (to aid in polar aligning), and the view through the trees and power lines where he saw the M101 supernova last month. I also saw the Chevelle in his garage for the first time since it's involvement in a hit-and-run crash in June 2010. Running on little sleep though, I soon had to head home and get to bed. It was a high energy session, and one of the most fun times I've had sharing the sky with the public.


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Photo credit: Chicago Astronomer.


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"Success!"

2 comments:

  1. Now that was some seriously fun street astronomy! Awesome fellas!

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  2. We had a great time- what a treat to come upon this on our trip to Chicago!

    ReplyDelete