In a type of a "first" for our Outreach, we took on THREE large "away" events in just one evening. Rain had cancelled the previous nights' plans at two of these camps, and we had volunteers enough to give a decent show to all three.
Camp#1: LEWIS & CLARK ELEMENTARY @ Camp Cuivre
"Lynn and I had about 100 kids and adults viewing with us. We started out with a deer feeding in the field while we set up. Lynn tracked M13 with the Coulter all evening while I showed Albireo, Alcor & Mizar and M31 in the 110mm refractor. A couple was showing reptiles inside while groups came out to view. It all worked well. We packed up and headed for home a little before 10:00 pm."
Camp #2: FORREST PARK ELEMENTARY @ Camp Sherwood
I crossed paths with a very young doe (a spotless fawn) on the way to the campground, near Camp Cuivre. The sun had started to set, which made the sky bright on the hilltops while being very dark in the valleys and in the shaded glades.
Tom Richards and I took on the largest camp, 6 classes of 5th graders for 140 total. Tom had his 8" f/6 reflector and I had both my 8" SCT and the 16" f/4.5 dob. With three pieces of equipment we could take on 30 kids at a time, platoon-fashion. I "borrowed" a teacher (Diana) to stand at the 8" SCT and tell the kids about Mars and the Ring Nebula. We got started at 7:45 with views of the moon, Mars, and Albireo early on. Later views included M8, M13, M22, M31, M57 and the Double Cluster. The night was nearly perfect, somewhat cool, no bugs or mosquitoes, and very clear skies. We pointed out the Milky Way to the kids, almost half of which had never seen it before.
The Lagoon Nebula and the Andromeda galaxy could be seen easily with the naked eye. Constellations were also occasionally pointed out, as was a very bright (-6 mag) Iridium Flare around 8:47pm. We finished up with the kids at 9:40 and gave quick looks of several objects to two late teachers, finishing at 9:45pm. Tom and I then enjoyed a quick peek at the Veil Nebula, which was nearly straight up. With the 2" OIII in place, it may have been the best I've ever seen it. Not only was the 'broom' end of the witches' broom filled out like lace, it was also showing many small arcs within the lace very nicely. It was quite breathtaking.
Local light issues are a minimum at this camp, but this year we had more issues with flashlights unfortunately. As it was a dark and moonless night, teachers deemed them necessary but unfortunately had a hard time keeping them pointed at the ground. Unless you are dark-adapted and on the receiving end, it is difficult to impress people on how this actually causes pain to others. Overall the kiddos and teachers were well-behaved and appreciative of the views we provided. We found the gates to the camp closed upon leaving around 10:20, but they were not locked, and we let ourselves out and put the gates back as we found them.
Camp #2 - continued
I will give a brief report for Jim T, since he is at Klondike tonight, and I was with him at Camp Sherwood, last night.
All I can say is, WOW, did the skies open up for a great star show out in the country! The kids had a blast and so did we. Jim had his 16 dob and C8, and I had my trusty 8 inch newt. The camp coordinating counselor staffed Jim's C8. Objects shown were the same, including the crescent Moon at the beginning and the Lagoon Nebula in Jim's Dob with a OIII filter. The seeing was just terrific we thought. At the end, Jim and I did a short bit of private observation, including the Veil Neb with Jim's OIII filter, to which both Jim and I felt that the view was one of the best visually we had ever seen of the Veil. The filaments and where they split was easily seen.
After each group, counselors also expressed interest in the club, public viewing at Broemmelsiek, and several expressed interest in building or acquiring a scope.
Was truly another great experience for both us and the kids, who were fortunate to have such great skies while camping up there. I am sure glad I pushed to get there after work and dinner (it was just in time by the way: immediately after setting up and I was told "look out, here they come").
Hope I can do it again soon,
Camp #3 - DARDENNE PRAIRIE ELEMENTARY - Camp Derricotte
[Marv Stewart and Bill Jones managed two scopes for this camp. -- JT]
"Bill and I had a good evening with the fifth graders. About eight o"clock they came out in two groups of about thirty each. Twenty five kids and five counselors and teachers per group. They stayed at either Bill's telescope or mine. I showed them M15 and Mizar, Bill had M 13 and the Lagoon in his. I pointed out the Constellations of Cygnus, Cassiopeia and Pegasus.
We found the groups very respectful and interested. Almost all the kids took their time looking and all expressed amazement. I was concerned without the Moon or planets we would be over their head and lose them, but this was not the case. Several came back for "seconds'.
All in all it was very enjoyable.
One note of caution, the grassy area below the volleyball court is a mess. They have put in a city water line, and where they dug is muddy and there is a lot of fist sized rock and brick lying around to stumble over in the dark. I would advise setting up on the volley ball court for now."