by Gene Allen, Outreach Chair
Our evening at Stuart Country Day School was a rousing success. It was not a success in terms of showing the fourth grade girls the night sky, because as soon as it got dark enough, clouds encroached, but in terms of the AAAP showing. We had more volunteers show up to share our enjoyment of astronomy than at any Outreach Events in recent memory. We had a wide variety of devices, from Victor Davis’s elegant and uniquely mounted Questar, to the 10” Dobsonians brought by veteran David Letcher and recent member Doug Braun. Hongkun Zhao joined after attending an Outreach presentation by Rex Parker just weeks ago, and he brought one of his refractors with a mounted DSLR, showing previous photos he had taken of the Orion Nebula. Peter Wraight was there with a homemade 6” Dobsonian, one of his binocular creations, and his amazing star charts. John Harding completed the field with an equatorial refractor, and Dave Skitt floated, trying to help find targets though rare breaks in the clouds. Jeff Pinyan performed heroically, his constellation tour keeping the girls engaged with descriptions and mythology without being able to point to any stars. A battery powered projector and screen to present a planetarium display would have helped a lot. Including teachers, parents, and siblings, there were about fifty in attendance. While ClearDarkSky had forecast clear until 2100, that’s when it actually did clear some, of course, after most of the girls had left.
The next Outreach Event on the calendar is a star gazing evening in Plainsboro on March 8, and I’m hopeful that we can muster as good a showing for that, because 100 people are expected. So far we have 5 scopes volunteered.
On March 22 we will be attending the Hopewell Elementary Science Fair and Expo, and we have 2 scopes offered to date.
On the opening weekend of our Simpson Observatory, April 5-6, a group of 25 or so scouts will be camping out in WCSP and visiting us. We are seeking extra volunteers to bring scopes and augment the Team #3 Keyholders who are on duty Friday, as well as Keyholders and others for a possible backup event on Saturday night.
Next would be Communiversity Day, April 28 on the Princeton Campus, a long afternoon of glad-handing and solar gazing. It will take place cloudy or clear, and we need all the enthusiastic amateur astronomers we can get, even without any hardware, to represent us. Solar scopes needed too, of course!
The Civil Air Patrol is at the National Guard Hangar on Scotch Road is asking for an astronomical presentation at any of their meetings, held every Wednesday evening. With two Outreach Events already scheduled, I am a bit reluctant to ask for volunteers to support his request for March.
In addition to all of this, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, “A Universe of Stories” has been declared as the theme for summer family reading programs in libraries throughout the state. We have requests for formal presentations from three local libraries (Ewing, Hollowbrook, and Hickory Corners) and one from Phillipsburg, because folks up there know us from Star Quest at Hope. I have asked to be a provider of last resort for that one, and a request from Avalon has been redirected. I have seen a need to develop a more formal but generic astronomy presentation, and this will likely be the challenge that will make that happen. Anyone willing to contribute to this effort is strongly urged to contact me, as I feel unequal to the task on my own.