CNYO Observing Log: TACNY Jr. Cafe And Solar Session @ The MOST, 17 May 2014

The May 17th TACNY Jr. Cafe Scientifique featured New Moon Telescope’s and CNYO’s own Ryan Goodson. His lecture, “Monster Telescopes And How They Are Built,” took attending students and adults on a 70-minute tour of the history of large-aperture telescopes. The lecture focused specifically on the Dobsonian philosophy that Ryan and NMT have developed upon to produce a novel design in scope assembly that many in the amateur astronomy community have taken notice of (when not commenting on the quality of the woodwork!).

The history and recent developments of the kind of telescope made famous by Isaac Newton – the Newtonian Reflector. We will begin the discussion from the perspective of the great Newton in the 1600s with his humble 1 1/2″ reflector, then journey through time to the present day, when amateur astronomers can often be seen in fields with telescopes large enough to rival or often surpass the size and quality of many professional observatories. We will focus on how the telescope is built, from the choice of wood to the installation of advanced electronics, finishing the discussion with what they are ultimately able to show us.

From Newton’s own telescope (perhaps he called it a “Me”ian scope), to the use of the PLOP program for optimizing mirror cells, to the new trend of GOTO-ing Dobsonian designs for tracking and imaging applications, Ryan gave the audience a broad sampling of topics important to scoped builders and users, all in a manner that didn’t bury non-scope owners in the jargon of the field.

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Ryan loading the rocker box of a 16″ Dob.

As is always the case at Jr. Cafe lectures, the kids were full of interest and great questions (as I’ve said before, nothing makes me feel more hopeful about the future of U.S. science than having a student ask a question I have to think hard about before answering).

But Wait! There’s More!

To take full advantage of the number of attendees and attending scopes, CNYO also hosted a solar session at the very beginning of the Creekwalk (next to the MOST) immediately after Ryan’s lecture. Over a two-hour period, approximately 45 lecture attendees and passers-by stopped to take in the sights of out nearest star. On a day that featured a few thick pockets of high-altitude clouds and otherwise perfect blue skies, the Coronado PST in attendance allowed us to follow a few significant prominences that changed shape considerably over the course of only 15 minutes (which was made more impressive to some of the new observers when we mentioned that these prominences were more easily measured in Earth diameters than in miles or kilometers).

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The Sun on May 17th, 2014. From NASA/SOHO

CNYO would like to specifically thank the NASA Night Sky Network for providing a (timely) Solar Kit that has already seen quite a bit of use these past few months at the capable hands of Larry Slosberg. I also want to thank Stephen Ramsden of the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project for handing me several pairs of solar shades (at NEAF 2014) that also saw considerable use to those not lined up behind the scopes.

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