Wednesday, October 12, 2011

InOMN Valpo, Oct. 8, 2011



Astronomers were in high demand everywhere last Saturday, October 8th. I was asked to work at three different sites for International Observe the Moon Night, including with Chicago Astronomers, but had to turn them all down. I wanted to do a hometown session. Calumet Astronomical Society had a Girl Scout event in Country Club Hills, and in the west or near-northwest suburbs (I've forgotten exactly where). Indeed, people like us were in high demand all over the planet for InOMN 2011.

Since the date of InOMN 2011 was announced a few months ago, I'd planned to do a session at Valpo's new Central Park Plaza, sometimes referred to as Valpo's Millennium Park. The lighting in the area make it hostile for astronomy, but it's central location in the city makes for decent foot traffic. I spent four nights there from October 1st through the 6th, getting familiar with both the location and our Moon.

I invited my friends through Facebook, my atheist Meet-up group, and asked for any interested astronomers to join me on the private CASX boards, but otherwise didn't promote it. I had a few people interested, and Calumet Astronomical Society member Jeff offered to bring out an extra scope. Hillary came along as photographer and astronomer, giving us a total of three crew members, and four telescopes.

Hillary and I had pizza at Greek's Pizza, just on the other side of the park, then walked over at 6 PM to set up. Jeff arrived as we were hauling out our gear. I took my time setting up, walking around the park taking pictures of the park before sunset.


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Hillary & Jeff.


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Hillary with her 60mm shorty refractor.


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Me with my 4.5" go-to Newtonian.



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Jeff with his 8" LX90.


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Already starting to attract attention.


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I had to move my Dob for the early visitors while we waited for the Moon to clear the bank next to the park.


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Jeff brought an 8” Meade LX90, Hillary her 60mm shorty refractor, and I had my 4.5” go-to and 6”Dobsonian. Hillary and I offered low powered lunar views all night, while Jeff opted for higher magnification, and a neutral density filter for more comfortable viewing. I had a small lunar map clipped to the side of my go-to Newt, and Jeff and I both sported 3 ft. wide laminated maps. I used mine often, as the large basin Shickard was placed right on the terminator. It’s western rim was illuminated, but the crater was in deep shadow, and drew a lot of attention. I also had to frequently explain the formation of maria, and that they are much younger than the heavily cratered highlands.


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Hillary and Jeff stayed with the Moon all night, but once Jupiter appeared over the rooftops on Lincolnway, I positioned my Dob to show it as well. And to tie the Jovian experience to InOMN, I pointed out that those little points of light to either side of Jupiter, the wonderful and varied Galilean Moons, were roughly the same size as our Moon. Really, compared to the gas giant, they’re not much smaller than Earth. That help give a scale of distance, as well as pointing out that the light they’re seeing from the Jovian system took about 40 minutes to reach their eye.


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I used my Dob, which was big enough to show the Jovian system well, yet easy to move, for views of Jupiter and the Galilean Moons.


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The large crater Shickard, lying along the southern terminator, was frequently asked about.


Nobody counted, but the three of us easily attended to over one hundred visitors before calling it quits just before 10 PM. Between all the telescopes, red lights blinking everywhere, and me flashing my green laser around the park, we drew in a crowd larger than I think I could handle on my own. Thanks to Hillary and Jeff for helping out, and making it a fantastic night for all.


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A parting crew shot. Many thanks to Jeff and Hillary for coming out, and making this a fun, informative event.


Read about the Chicago Astronomer InOMN event near Adler Planetarium.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Paulie,

    Good to see you writing again! It seems like you and Hillary had a great time on International Observe the Moon Night! Loved all the pics. Also, nice pic you got there of yourself with your scope during the day time.

    I never knew you were an atheist. Good for you! How long have you been one?

    Keep posting cause I'll be reading!

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  2. I've more or less been an atheist most of my life. I was raised sort of Catholic, but it never took hold. I had a girlfriend in 2005 who dragged me along to church and bible study, and I gave it an honest effort to believe, but after we split up, I completely gave it up. Once I was addicted to Facebook in 2008, I noticed that I had a lot of online friends who called themselves atheists. I realized that I was too.

    When SUG started his Sparks area Meet-up group, I searched other Meet-up groups close to home. I found an atheist meet-up the same night I first looked, at a coffee shop I go to often. I've been fairly active with the group ever since. I've missed quite a few of their meet-ups because of public observing nights, but they understand, and like having an astronomer in the group. We have a meet-up tonight, and sometime soon we have a meet-up scheduled at the observatory (can't say when just yet, because not all of our members are "out." I should be able to post about it afterward).

    Hillary was coming with me to most of the meet-ups, but she's not an atheist. (One of a few reasons I've been trying to limit my time with her recently, and why I don't think we will last much longer). A friend of ours was selling his little travel scope this summer, coincidentally just before her birthday. I wish I could have bought her something bigger, but she says she loves it, and it's easy enough for her to carry around. I really didn't want her to bring it Saturday, but I'm glad she did. She still has a lot to learn, and is a little shy in a crowd, but I did notice that she performed pretty well; better than I expected.

    Thanks for reading. Writing just got to feel like work this summer, so I kind of quit the blog. I have a bunch of stuff I'd like to go back and post, and if I don't wear myself out in the rest of the month, I'd like to post something every other day. Last week was super busy (InOMN wrapped up 8 consecutive nights of public observing for me). And I also generate more data than I can efficiently process (mostly pictures) in a timely manner. Maybe now that the observing season is winding down I'll be able to catch up and finally post some older stories. I think they'll still be worth reading, even though some of them are two months old now. The nest post is almost done, just need to finish copying and pasting the HTML codes for about 20 pictures from the autumnal equinox, then maybe try to write up one of last week's sessions. Right now, though, I need to sleep.

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  3. Absolutely a super outreach Paulie!!!!! I enjoyed the pics, and your narrative. Well done! Outreaches like this only prove that there is a hunger out there to experience the universe first hand as we provide the environment for that to happen. This is an excellent post!

    My IOMN was a bust over 2 nights due to poor conditions. Oh well it is always IOMN for me anyway!

    Good to see Hillary in the mix and sharing what she has and knows. Outreach requires a lot of different skills and I am sure she will grow and discover her bent. Passion, and a friendly demeanor with others are the important ingredients which both of you share!

    On a side note I am one of those faith oriented folks that has been able to reconcile both my love of God and the natural world. They are inseparable. My outreach is activated by both of these things. No my outreach is not a preaching platform but it is a defined extension of how my Father in heaven has moved in my life. The universe is a tangible expression of his character, providence and care for me. It is a privilege to unlock its treasures and share them.

    No I can not prove God's existence to anyone as that is discovered alone in the quiet of our hearts. Christ is as tangible to me has the things I spy in my scope. Both are seen from a distance but they are seen and can be understood for what they are! Once faith is apprehend it will translate into a logical way of life and world view that fuels and inspires anyone to be the best they can be. I am a man of faith but my brain is not shut down! Faith drives me to want to learn and understand how the world works and connect with it. Faith & knowledge are inseparable from this astro guy.

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