Most of our public outreach is facilitated at our "Friday Night Open House" events at Broemmelsiek Park. For large groups (50+), we will consider bringing scopes to your event. For requests for a telescope outing, or if a large group (50+) plans to come to Broemmelsiek, please email Outreach@asemonline.org . For those who would like to help support our efforts to bring astronomy to the public, free of charge, please consider joining our society ($50) or otherwise offering your support. We are a tax-deductible 501-3c charitable organization. Membership application
Public Outreach Activities
The 2015 Perseids were blessed to occur favoring the USA and on a nearly New Moon. ASEM hosted two events. The Cuivre River S.P. event was publicized in a small market, and the BP event was not publicized by the SCCP but got TV coverage at the last minute. I'm combining both reports into this log.CUIVRE RIVER STATE PARK:
We arrived at 7pm to find the gate locked. My contact, Ranger Jaime (the "Interpretive Resource Coordinator") showed up in a few minutes to unlock the gate. "Special Event" signs were posted along the main road in both directions. Jaime said that they expected between 200 and 400, and I was a bit worried. I set up and the crowd slowly trickled in after sunset. At one point I doubted that we'd even have 30, but they just kept coming. I had packed up for both scopes, but managed to leave the tripod for the C8 behind, so I only had the 16" dob. Given how out of practice I am, it could have been worse. I had brought my son to handle the C8, so he got to enjoy the meteor shower after all.
I showed Saturn for nearly an hour (starting around 8:30), then catered to other DSOs (M8, M13, M57, M27, Albireo, M22, and later on M51, M31, and the Veil Nebula (witches broom). There were about 7 parks employees there, one with a clicker. She had 115 at 10PM, and there were probably only 10 after that, so 125 is my count. Jamie had a loudspeaker, and told 'star lore' as well as meteor shower and comet information.
I brought plenty of ASEM brochures and had several very interested parties. Several had some decent telescopes that they needed help with, and some had general (non-telescopic) astrophotography interest (particularly on shots of meteors). I stressed the Beginner's meetings and A/P SIG to them. I sounded off about Friday Night Open House every Friday night at Broemmelsiek like a broken record. A private school in Winfield also mentioned a camp in September, expecting 100. I directed her to our website on the brochure.
It was a very nice night, weather-wise. We couldn't get completely away from headlight issues here of course. My best views were the Veil and one GORGEOUS meteor that blazed and wiggled for about 45* before burning out. They kept me busy at the scope, often with good questions, so I only got to see about a dozen meteors before packing out.
The work crew came last and got some of the best views. I started tearing down shortly after 11pm and got out around 11:30, home by midnight. From the sounds of the ooh's and aah's, I would guess that it might be one of the best Perseid nights in the past 6 yrs. Around 10:30 I asked a couple of 20-somethings how many they'd seen and they answered 20 and 30 since 9pm. The crowd was a bit thin on elementary kiddos, I expected more but back-to-school issues likely lowered their count.
Jamie had a strong interest in this, and she mentioned doing another event for the Sep 27 lunar eclipse. We'll see. Her husband is the CRSP superintendent.
823 people were clicked in by 1:30 am. The actual body count will be higher. There was a steady stream of cars coming into the park after midnight. Telescopes started getting business when Saturn popped into view.
ASEM people helping the public enjoy the Perseids were Lisa Barnes, Steve Boerner, Grant Martin, Stacey Thater, and Mark Shea. Jim and Ann Trull provided emotional support for the weary scope handlers. We were so busy, I could not leave the telescope and chat with folks. Rangers were called fairly early, as parking became crazy right after sunset.
Well so much for the thought of not pushing the Perseids and only 100-200 visitors! I don't think there were more that 200 at any one time, but there was a steady stream in and out pf the lot all night long with cars parked everywhere. I know that before the ranger showed up cars left without parking not knowing that they could park on the grass over by the entrance. There were lots of headlights and flashlights going everywhere. Quite a few people set up out in the lot and east of the entrance road.
Since we didn't "push" the night, the crowd must have heard about the event from elsewhere where we have no influence...TV, radio, etc. (Note: Fox 2 News broadcasts at 5 and 6 pm were at Broemmelsiek LIVE with Anna Elise Parks talking about the Perseids, before we were even set up).
The shower is a yearly occurrence and in the future we should plan on a crowd whether it really happens or not. While it was a small minority, I do know some visitors were upset with the lack of parking and crowd control. The 2016 Perseids are on a Friday night/Saturday morning with the Moon at 77% full and setting at 1:46 a.m. on the 13th. Both Saturn and Mars should be visible before midnight. The timing next year should mean a double whammy of FNOH and Perseid crowd.
For our part, we promoted the event in Facebook. The top 5 Perseids
related posts caught more than 3600 reaches. When I left at 3AM, they were still rolling in. I'm pretty sure that over a thousand folks went through between sunset and sunrise. When I left, I policed the area and found only two
beer cans, two soft drink cans, an empty bottle of wine and a wrapper
for those self illuminating wrist bands. Not bad for a crowd that size.
(compilation of individual reports from Amy W., Steve B., and Grant M.)
Chuck Simms and I put a special program together by request of the St Charles County Library District. It ran from 7pm until 9pm at the Spencer Road Branch. The first hour was a 30 slide PowerPoint program built around the title of the program, showing both natural refraction and man-made refraction, and telescopes in general. Part of this highlighted ASEM, Broemmelsiek Park, and the upcoming Library telescopes (one of which was front and center).
The second half of the program (after it got dark) were views thru telescopes. Chuck had his 10" dob and I had my 8" SCT. We gave them views of the gibbous moon, Venus, Jupiter, and the double star Castro. Thirty-seven people attended and they were very appreciative.
It was a very cold morning, but there was a very good turnout by the public, around 50 people total. Ken Gotsch, Melinda Simms, and myself were there with binoculars and one telescope, (ETX 90), to show those brave enough to come out an eagle close up. One ranger, Bill, also had a small spotting scope out, and another person came out with a telescope for his own use.
We saw 5 or 6 eagles total, most were on the ice and hard to see, but several times one would sit in a tree and we would zoom in. A young eagle sat in a tree for the last 45 minutes we were there, so my telescope was on him most of the time.
Two folks from the World Bird Sanctuary were there with an Eagle so we could really get up close and personal. There was a large wood pile I thought would become a bonfire, but it turns out it was life-size eagle’s nest.
We all had to sit in our cars a few time to keep warm, and the parks department had plenty of hot cocoa for us to drink. It was cold but fun.
Chuck and Melinda S.
Ken G. at binos, and the ETX-90
Clouds were fairly thick and discouraged many, but we were still successful at observing this partial solar eclipse and sharing the views with nearly all who came. Our telescope operators (Amy, Steve, Kirk, Stacey, Chuck, and myself) came early and set up. We were joined by Nancy G. of the County Parks. It was difficult to set up with very little to no visible Sun. We managed to get lined up just before the eclipse, and Stacey announced the first contact pretty much right on time.Steve manned a live web-link of the eclipse, with a laptop and monitor at the picnic table. I brought some visual displays of today's Sun and also of the upcoming 2017 TOTAL solar eclipse. We had a field of mostly SCTs today, including one from a visitor with his kids. Amy, Kirk, and Steve were the exceptions. It was a worthwhile overall effort, and the clouds did not 'skunk' us. They sure did hold a lot of people back though. Given the amount of time available to view the Sun this afternoon, we probably had just the right-sized crowd.
The eclipse occurred from 4:41pm to 6:11,pm but we were well-clouded at 5:41pm. We did not get to observe the maximum eclipse (39% at 5:47pm), but we all got to see a large 'chunk" blocked (I'd estimate 25%). Clouds were intermittent with observing from 4:41 to 5:41, with the clouds likely being more than 80-20 vs. the Sun. We estimated that we had probably 50 visitors.
Viewing thru the 16" dob:
We were told that the camp had around 150 girl scouts and another 50 adults and others, and that pretty well fit my estimate with the time that we spent. We invited many of them to our weekly events at Broemmelsiek Park. We packed up and were out between 10pm and 10:15pm.
Carl Turek and I handled this event. The skies were about 30% cloudy when we arrived around 5:40pm. By the time we were set up, it was about 90% clouds. The satellite views gave the impression it would soon get better, and finally by 7:30 it did and the lines started forming. A few scattered clouds still hung around, but it was mostly clear for the next couple of hours until we were ready to pack up. It was not a perfect evening, but it worked out pretty good, and we had some awesome views most of the time.
We showed off the Milky Way and pointed out stars and constellations with our laser pointers. I asked frequently (as the groups cycled in and out) if any scouts needed help with astronomy awards. There were a few takers. The most frequent request was to point out constellations.
We operated pretty steadily from around 7:30 until about 9:30, with a few stragglers afterwards. We showed the Perseus Double Cluster in Carl's 4" refractor most of the evening, the double star Albireo (beta Cygni) in my 8" SCT (courtesy of volunteer help from Joe), and M13 (the great Hercules globular cluster) in my 16" dob. I offered occasional views of M27 (Dumbbell nebula) and M31 (the Andromeda galaxy) in the dob, but showing M13 was much simpler. I hesitated to move up from 60x to 200x due to the added work of moving the scope along more, but when I did so I had to acknowledge that the 200x view was astounding! However, the view of M31 was pretty soft (poor seeing), but it was very visible to the naked eye (good transparency).
Helping out on the 8" SCT:
Marv performed an interactive exercise with the kids using roll of ribbon to show the size and extent of our solar system, starting with the Sun, then Mercury, then doubling the distances to each successive planet (and asteroid belt). No doubt that the great distances were mind-blowing to many of them.
Clouds and rain were prevalent on this day, with threat of lightning. So, we were assigned indoors to a classroom. The nice, long hallway previously used on such events was needed as a temporary cafeteria. The good news was, we had a large window in the classroom. In the distance, nothing but houses. Ugh. Fortunately, one was under construction, with roofers putting on a roof. That became my target for the day in the 8" SCT. I also had two easels with pictures of the sun, as well as my photos of the latest Venus and Mercury transits. All seemed surprised at how VERY tiny Mercury was, relative to the Sun.Steve B. brought along the club's PST, on his own mount. That was primarily eye-candy for today. The kids were shown how it works and the kind of image of the sun that it puts out. He presented various solar information regarding our nearest star on his laptop.
We entertained and instructed five 3rd and 4th grade classes between 9am and 11am. I believe the classes averaged 24 students per class. So, approximately 120 students served. All were informed of the Friday Night Open Houses at Broemmelsiek Park, and of the upcoming Partial Solar Eclipse event at Broemmelsiek Park on late afternoon Thursday, October 23, 2014. Start of that eclipse is 4:41pm and lasts until sunset at 6:11pm. Hopefully many of these kids will come out and see a show that MORE than makes up for the views of the sun that they missed today!
"Discovery Days" is an annual event at this school, with an emphasis on the sciences but also offering other types of discovery. Per the school's website:
"On Friday the week culminated with activities that included a visit from retired USAF Colonel J.P. Morgan whose brother was an original Tuskegee Airman. Other activities included solar scope viewing with the Astronomical Society of Eastern Missouri, and a Monsanto outreach program on sound and light. Boeing fighter jet pilots also shared with students what it was like to fly an F/A-18 Super Hornet built right here in St. Louis. Additional events included Dino Odell’s science songs and the St. Louis Science Center unisphere, a portable, inflatable mini-planetarium."
There was also a hands-on room for kids to learn and copy drawings of constellations. These to be followed by an evening viewing the stars at Broemmelsiek Park (FNOH), but rain and a sky full of clouds caused this to be cancelled.
The kiddos were very well behaved, and nearly all were able to see thru the telescope easily. It was fun to walk thru the hallways and see many colorful displays of our solar system, including planets, moons, and planetoids. I hope that next year we can enjoy a sunny day and provide a much more interesting lesson about our nearest star, in the sunshine.
Skies were clear at Indian Camp Creek Park. Campers young and old enjoyed the Moon, Saturn, Mars, and Milky Way objects as wll as M31. The youngest camper was only 19 days old! Rangers carted campers up to the observing site on hayride carts. The walk from the dining shelter was kind of long for little ones in the dark, so we did not get many walk-in campers. We entertained the campers from 7 to 10pm.
There was a lot of humidity, but that has been the case for the last two months of observing. We're sort of getting used to it. Still not liking it though.
Carl had his refractor going, Ed ran our C-8, and I worked the Astroscan with the kiddies.
The site we used for observing was very dark, as the Milky Way was easy to show people. All the Little Dipper stars were visible. The northern horizon at this site did not have big trees, so it was good for explaining Polaris and circumpolar stars to the campers. Whoever picked this site for telescopes, thank you!
There is a telephone tower topped with a REALLY bright flashing strobe to the south of the park.
There were 200 campers signed up for this weekend. Gut estimate of telescope viewers was 100+, until otherwise submitted.
There were some cirrus clouds early on, but they thinned out once it got good and dark. The usual 'survey' of kids who've seen the Milky Way before (just under half), and they were all able to see it clearly on this moonless night. There were lots of little "Wow!"s exclaimed throughout the evening.
A very nice evening for telescopes and kiddos. I brought two scopes, my 8" SCT and my 16" dob. I asked a teacher (James) to man the 8", and show the double star Albireo (beta Cygni). I did a short talk as we began, and had a volunteer watching the clock and a spot in the sky. A very bright (~ mag -6) Iridium Flare popped right on time just above Polaris at 7:54pm, and the crowd went wild! An estimated 130+ enjoyed views thru the scopes from 7:45pm to 10:00pm. This was a large crowd for just two scopes, and it was difficult for one person.The location was Camp Derricotte, a wonderful site, limited only by tall trees blocking Saturn :-( and one disturbing dusk-to-dawn light :-O near the center of the camp. I showed M13 in the 16" for all the kiddos. After which, the teen counselors and teachers were invited back and they enjoyed views of M31, M27, M11, and M15.
About 40 scouts and parents showed up under good skies at 7:30pm. They were shown Mars,Saturn, the Andromeda Galaxy, and of course Albireo. They headed back to their campsite at 9pm and Chuck S. and I wrapped it up.
Stacy Thater ventured solo on this event, providing views for 52 stargazers at Camp Tuckaho. The skies cooperated by being clear most of the day and evening. He showed the Moon, Saturn, Mars, M13, M31, and M57.
estimate one hour