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Enthusiasm Beats Rain

Discussion in 'Star Parties, Clubs, and Outreach Events' started by Jim O'Connor, Oct 9, 2016.

Enthusiasm Beats Rain

Started by Jim O'Connor on Oct 9, 2016 at 10:56 PM

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  1. Jim O'Connor

    Jim O'Connor Active Member

    Sep 16, 2015
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    We had such a great night yesterday with my Xterminator, I thought I'd brag a bit.

    Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association was scheduled to support the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association's annual Star Night at a special location called the Peace Garden. This is a quiet, isolated 1/2 acre of trees in an otherwise economically depressed high crime area. It was built, and continues to be expanded and enhanced, by the students of Sunnyside School District, supported by the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association. It was the brain child in 2003, and continues under the leadership, of a wonderful lady named Beki Quintero. The process is that on Saturdays, the kids volunteer four hours of work on the gardens or building the benches and walkways and any manner of improvements. In return, local merchants have contributed funds for the improvements and parts to repair the kids' bicycles or, if they don't own a bicycl e, for a few more hours work they can earn a bike. I've been a volunteer at Star Night for over ten years, except for one. During our session, we are usually visited by Tucson Police Department anti-gang foot patrols who enthusiastically thank us; one told me "Tonight they'll think about the stars instead of flying knives and bullets." Another reason for sharing our presence in outreach.


    There were three of us scheduled, but the weather started bad in mid-day and seemed like it would be rainy until after 8 PM, so we were given the option of not coming if it looked bad. Since my role is not only with a scope, b ut to be a cultural story teller, I couldn't duck my chance or let Beki and the kids down, so I left home in a driving rain and drove the 30 miles south. There were some patches of blue, but rolling rain clouds as well, so I had no hopes of scope time.

    I got there about 5:20, and there were some blue patches over the Peace Garden but although looking stationary, the clouds were mobile and some ugly. Then a young lady volunteer from UofA showed up, her first time there, and we talked a bit about the history and purpose of Peace Garden and Beki showed around 5:40 followed by the other core group of volunteers. It didn't look like a good night for telescopes, so I was going to stick around for story telling. The young lady from UofA and I put together about a hundred luminaria, used there in place of the park lights when scopes are present. The other volunteers distributed the luminaria at the speed of light while both st udent and adult volunteers completed the setup (refreshments, power line running, and a dozen other functions). By now it was well after 7 PM and the sky was dark and clear. It was decided to give the scope a go along with the story telling, and a Tucson Police Department sergeant and an officer, and several of the adult and youth volunteers carried all my stuff over to the labyrinth because of my weight lifting limits from surgery. I got the 10" SCT working at f/5 with the Mallincam Xterminator perfectly on the first quarter moon, and the 19" monitor had the giant lunar poodle visible (I rotated the camera to perfectly match the lunar orientation), and started the story telling. In honor of the great lunar view, I did the comparative stories of the Navajo and Yaqui Sun, Moon, and star creation, as well as the Yaqui sun wanting the moon to be his girlfriend and the condition she set. The Yaqui culture has the Sun and Moon in place for the creation of the Earth. For the Navajo story, in addition to the legend of the people themselves creating the Sun and Moon and flying them into position, I added the concept of coyote as trickster in the lore of most tribes, and his scattering of the Navajo First Woman's stars leading to the custom of grandparents teaching the children. I threw in the color of the coyote story (involves bluebirds and a magic lake, coyote getting a blue coat but he doesn't follow all the rules and ends up with dusty brown forever except, if you peel back a coyote's fur, there is still a blue layer next to the skin.

    The moon creation, and all the education about the Mare and dry craters followed, and we saw some drift into solar collimation in the reflected sunlight and suddenly become beacons in real time, using ALC = 4000, so there was a bit of excitement along with the Late Heavy Bombardment and Intermediate Bombardment lessons. One ad ult asked for a deep sky object so I aligned on Vega and demonstrated the awesome view of Mallincam's M57 (The Ring) image. This took about 20 minutes as batteries in the wireless electronic controller died (spares 100 yards away in the truck), Telrad batteries actually fell out, mount brain lost it's mind and needed three tries at Vega, and accidentally disconnecting the monitor power. But the wait was worth the OOHS and AAHS on The Ring and the stellar evolution story. Despite the still present high humidity/low transparency, all I had to do was set the AWC and then MAN on white balance and increase the integration time by 5 seconds over the normal 0 gain setting for a perfect Ring. So, the night was saved in grand style thanks to persistence and an awesome instrument. Several of the Peace Garden staff helped me haul my stuff over to the truck. I love this place, its island of peace and love in a tough economic area, and their close interaction with the local folks. Since we started doing this group13 years ago, I've only missed one due to a schedule conflict, but this is such a unique group of volunteers I never miss an opportunity for a Beki hug.

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