CNYO Observers Log: Pulaski Middle School Science Club, 20 November 2013

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

CNYO members Larry Slosberg, Ryan Goodson, and myself hosted our first science club observing session of the year at Pulaski Middle School (my third year doing so, Larry’s second year, and Ryan’s first).

The cold weather kept the crowd to about 25 (early-October sessions having maxed out at around 50 previously) students, teachers, and parent chaperones (no doubt to keep our astronomy humor clean) for an evening that gave us about 1 full hour of good observing and 30 minutes of increasing cloud cover and decreasing body temperatures.

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Larry getting ready. Photo by Ryan Goodson. Click for a larger version.

In a shift from the usual procedure, we held the entire event outdoors. Powerpoint slides were replaced with red flashlights and two of our CNYO brochures (How The Night Sky Moves and Guide For New Observers) to direct a walk-through of the Night Sky while it was clearly visible (with extra thanks to the Pulaski Middle School staff for turning out the football and tennis court flood lights). The first half-hour was also used as a Q+A session. One long-lived, slow-moving meteor coaxed a 10 minute discussion of meteor showers and motion in the Solar System. A few quick beams from our green laser pointers were used as a springboard to discuss both vision (our sensitivity to green and our insensitivity to red, the differences between rods and cones, dark adaptation) and the law (because they are most definitely NOT toys). Ryan also gave a walk-through of an 8″ NMT Dobsonian to explain to everyone present how the photon traffic is directed to the eyepiece and where to place your eye at all three scopes to see the sights.

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Kids watching Larry with an NMT Dob in the foreground. Photo by Ryan Goodson. Click for a larger version.

The following hour was an observing free-for-all, with each of us picking and describing objects in the Night Sky. With the line and discussion as long as it was, I only managed to observe Albireo, the Ring Nebula (M57), the Pleiades, Vega, and Jupiter (it quite close to the end of the event).

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The author dressed for radio. Photo by Ryan Goodson. Click for a larger version.

Despite the cold, everyone was attentive and full of good questions (perhaps the best part of running these events is discovering that the science gears are spinning quickly in the heads of science club members). We finally packed up around 9:30 p.m. after I ran a 15-minute warm-up session indoors to talk a little more astro-shop (spending most of the time on intelligent life in the universe and the reason why we’ve so few impact craters on Earth).

Larry summed up our session best on Facebook:

I would like to take a moment, and thank the kids and adults at Pulaski Middle School for inviting us up last night for another great astronomy night. All the kids were engaged, enthusiastic, and contributed to lots of great discussions. We had a wonderful night of observations, nice clear skies and I can’t wait to do it again. I am truly amazed by the breadth of knowledge of the kids and their eagerness to learn more. Keep it up, kids!!!

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