Dardenne Elementary - 9/27/2011

posted Sep 28, 2011, 4:49 AM by Jim Twellman   [ updated Sep 28, 2011, 6:04 AM ]
It was partly cloudy for John Sgouros, Marv Stewart and myself when we arrived around 7pm.  The kiddos were doing paired square dancing on the volleyball court as we set up, which really took me back to my own experience as a child camping at Cuivre River about 4 decades before.  It also reminded me that my oldest son, at that age, had to learn to do the "Two Step" with a girl in Katy Tx to the tune of "The Cotton-Eyed Joe".  We were optimistic that the clouds would thin out, but we knew that we'd have at least some degree of hide-n-seek.  John brought along Kate and a second scope for her to utilize.  So we had a refractor, an 8" dob, a 13.1" dob, and an 8" SCT all set up in a row at Camp Derricotte.   

We got started around 7:45 and finished up at 9:00.   I was surprised that we finished that soon, but evidently we had 90 people instead of the 132 that was expected.  Due to this, instead of platoons switching in and out, we had the whole crowd at once, with lines of around 20 at each scope. It went okay, but it was evident that it was more of a challenge due to the necessary crowd control.   The teachers and counselors were great.  They were on top of things and did a good job, but I could tell that the longer lines were not easier on anybody.  The two things that stood out for me was (1) trying to talk above the noise, and (2) folks piled up too close to the viewer, making him'/her less comfortable.  This was seconded by Marv.  He & I agreed that a 10 person line max. works a lot better.   It wasn't bad tonight, just noticeably not as good.

I pointed out the Milky Way when addressing the group just before we headed to the telescopes.  This was right after they turned off the lights at the volleyball court, so I'm not sure how many could really see it.  I was glad to later hear a teacher ask the students about our place in the Milky Way, after they were more adjusted to the dark. I'm sure that half of these kids had not previously seen their home galaxy.  I showed M57 (the Ring Nebula) at 132x in my SCT all night, with only a few, very short "blackouts" of cloud cover.  I believe Marv, John, and Kate were showing views of M13, M22, Albireo, and Mizar.  Jupiter had not cleared the trees yet by the time we left, but was up nicely in the east for the drive home. I knew that an Io shadow event was going on and I was almost tempted to head to Broemmelsiek for a night cap, but decided to let my back rest instead.

We were fortunate with the weather tonight and we were glad to have given some of these kids their first look through a telescope.  I hope they can come on out to Broemmelsiek on our Friday Night Open Houses to see Jupiter in the next month or so.

Jim Twellman