Saturday, May 02, 2009

IAD 2009 at OSC

Saturday was the planned special day-time solar observing and regular star party evening events at the Ontario Science Centre with the support of the RASC. Weather permitting. I was interested in helping out, particularly during the evening portion, but I wasn't quite sure how I could make it happen.

My car was still acting up, or, more correctly, not acting at all—I could not start it. So that created a possible option wherein I would travel to the OSC by TTC, obviously with very little gear. I briefly considered that I could ask Guy again about using one of his extra telescopes... but I did not want to impose. I did not want to rent a car.

It didn't help matters that I was a little late at getting going Saturday morning. By the time I had finished my much needed tomato juice, cracking toast, and yummy coffee, I was a little concerned about the weather. The morning had gone off spectacular (which would have been excellent for the solar observers). But as I watched the regional radar and satellite images, I grew less optimistic. If it rained in the afternoon, I'd have to defer my car repair work.

But then, if it rained a lot, that might make this whole conundrum go away... Betwixt and between.

It was right about then that my email box, once again, overflowed! And that meant that Guy's GO call for the evening did not immediately reach me. In fact, it was around 5 PM that I finally clued in that there was a problem. As I downloaded mail from the server onto one computer, I checked the Yahoo!Group on another. That's when I learned the "we were on!" I glanced at the time: 2 hours to go! Crap. Barely time to clean myself, eat, pack up some gear and stuff, and jump on the tube. I'd be ill prepared...

And I still didn't have a solid plan for getting there. Hmmm. Let's phone the people in the 'hood, John and Tony...

I phoned Tony. I asked if he was going. Nope. We chitchatted about some RASC and CAO matters. When the conversation turned to my lack of transportation, Tony offered one of his vehicles. I just about fell out of my chair. What a generous offer! We hammered out logistics and suddenly our rendezvous was to be prefaced by dinner at Mackenzies. Yum.


I arrived at the Science Centre at around 7:45. Ralph watched over my gear as I parked. I set up quickly.

I had assumed I would be able to jack into AC power; I had not brought the portable battery. But I had not chose a spot close to the only outlet I could see. When I asked Sara about other outlets, she wasn't sure. And then she said that they weren't switched on. Oh. Still, I tried. With some finessing, I was able to get my extension cord across the distance. Ron let me keep my bulky AC-DC adapter below his tripod. It would be a minor trip hazard but it looked a good solution. And as I connected everything, red LEDs firing, it was clear, the plug was live! Yeh.

Immediately, I started offering up of the Moon. The First Quarter view was very satisfying in my baader planetarium hyperion eyepiece at 55x. People seemed to enjoy that view.

In short order, we were starting to turn to Saturn. If I remember correctly, Titan was an easy target, to the left (in my mirror-reversed view). I spotted something very faint between, equidistant, but I never got 'round to looking it up (it was Rhea).

I was feeling a little tired of the solar system bodies so I decided to chase down some double stars. Off to Castor then. This seemed well-received by the visitors, despite being a tough target. People were intrigued. So many asked if they were related that I had to look it up. I pulled out Sissy Haas's book and relayed the news: Castor A and B are a binary system with a period of approx. 450 years.

When a couple of visitors pointed out it was, in fact, a 6 star system, I referred again to double stars for small telescopes and learned that A and C were visible. In fact, we could see 2 nearby yet faint (magnitude 10) stars. I told people that I believed one of them was a sixth member.

Guy visited me at one point and asked the name of a star γ (gamma) Leonis. Algieba. I guess I'm becoming double-star man... That's curious. Why aren't more people interested in this?

Later I turned to Mizar and Alcor. Again, I checked with Haas. Mizar A and B are a binary system. No period was noted though... (Wikipedia says 1000 years.)

As we began to wrap up, I turned to ε (epsilon) Lyrae. Even at 110x with the Meade 18mm I could not split the one of the pair. I thought they were both the same separation... The pair perpendicular I could split; but not the in-line pair.

Sharmin helped me pack up.


I was very pleased to see a bunch of the NOVA course participants out. I saw Judith, Mitchell and Jennifer, Sharmin, Myriam, and Lana. There may have been more! It was a tremendous opportunity for them to try out telescopes, look at stuff, ask lots of previously unanswered questions, and see what we do!


I heard we served 400 people.

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