Saturday, May 9, 2009

Outreach with Cub Scouts!

It -DID- look bad. It did.
Clouds as far as the eye could see. Thunderstorms expected for later.

I managed earlier in the day Friday to talk the scoutmaster into coming up to McCormick Observatory, though, and Dr.Mike Gorman showed the kids the scope and talked to them at length. He then let them slew the scope, turn the dome & raise & lower the observer's chair. Then after a good bit of this they came in to the classroom and I started my seemingly endless "Richard Drumm The Astronomy Bum" spiel.

I showed them librations of the Moon. Then I showed them a star chart and gave each of them a star map to keep:

I talked about Astrology, and precession of the equinoxes & astrology's problems. I covered the scientific method and Occham's razor.

After a while the scoutmaster announced that it was still cloudy and that they'd have to come back another time to look through the scope. I'm sure the kids were disappointed at this but what can you do? I talked a good bit more, about types of telescopes and how the telescope was invented. I had just finished talking about how it's OK that Pluto is not a planet anymore when Mike announced that he had Saturn in the scope!

All the kids and adults got to see the planet! I passed around the meteorite and talked to everybody some more out in the museum room till they all left. A couple of random groups of people showed up and I explained to them the public night/group night schedule as I showed them the scope. They'll be back for the next public night at McCormick.

All in all a fabulous night! Victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat! W00T!


NiteSkyGirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NiteSkyGirl said...

Aww that is so nice to read. I hope they find astronomy so interesting it becomes a life long enjoyment & passion for them. what a great story Richard! I was watching college jeopardy and one of the contestants teaches chess to inner city kids to help them get interested in something else rather than the drugs and getting into trouble. Made me wish the stars were seen to them easily so some sidewalk astronomer can get them interested in astronomy.

Ted said...

Do you ever advocate using large binoculars in place of telescopes for viewing?


Richard Drumm The Astronomy Bum said...

Large binos are a great tool for astronomy. I have a pair of 15x75 Celestron SkyMaster binocs that I use. My wife absconded with them for a time for bird-watching, but I got them back when I got her a pair of 7x50s.

I'm particularly attracted to the binocs that have a built-in 90 degree prism arrangement. This way you can use the binocs with a simple tripod and save your neck the strain of looking up directly. Now if I can justify forking over the dough for a pair. There's even one that has a built-in nebula filter. Oh baby! WANT!

Large binocs generally won't be too good for outreach with kids, though, as they can't hold them steady and have trouble finding what they're looking for. The higher power (like my 15x) make steady handling of the binocs of great importance as any small shaking of the hands is magnified greatly.

Smaller binocs, like those 7x50s I mentioned earlier are best for kids to use. Kids should be encouraged to use them often and should know how to adjust the focus. They should also practice finding things in the binocs' field of view. I tell them "Look at a particular star (or planet) with the naked eye and pull the binocs up to your face till you have that star in view."

My eyes are oddballs, too, one being nearsighted and one slightly farsighted, so I have to adjust binoculars accordingly. As a result, I have had trouble with binoviewers like Denkmeyers. I just can't seem to get them to adjust to my weird eyes. Oh well.

ted the astronomy binoculars guy said...

Thanks for your comment. I just recently came across a forum somewhere where this guy was using a kind of reflective mirror with great optics. The product came with a clamp for binoculars, and uses it sitting down, looking through the binoculars like through a microscope. Very easy on the neck and stable. I need to find the link to the product.

Richard Drumm The Astronomy Bum said...

This is what you're longing for:
I've seen these before and always wanted to try one myself. Yeah, very easy on the ol' neck!

ted the telescope binoculars guy said...

Hey, further to an earlier exchange we had about the Skywindow, I saw this site, for a DIY version of the same thing:

Looks very doable.


Robert Currey said...

Hi Richard,

Though it was courteous of you to avoid confronting the astrologers on the issue of precession of the Equinox, a frank discussion may have been more instructive.

You would have discovered that far from being embarrassed or surprised, most astrologers learn about precession in their first day in an astrology class. You would have also learnt that from the time of Ptolemy, the ecliptic coordinate system used by most western astrologers, known as the Tropical Zodiac has no relation to the constellations and that most western astrologers work with the planets (plus the Sun and the Moon) within the solar system rather than the stars.

“Star Signs” is a misnomer used by the Press and those who do not understand the techniques involved in calculating a horoscope.

I can understand that you might like to have “a good laugh at the astrological silliness!” with your audience. However, to ridicule the Tropical Zodiac on this basis is as 'silly' as mocking the American Gallon for being out of line with the 'only true' measuring system: the British (Imperial) Gallon.

best wishes